cul·​ture | \ ˈkəl-chər How to pronounce culture (audio) \

Definition of culture

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group also : the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time popular culture Southern culture
b : the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization a corporate culture focused on the bottom line
c : the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic studying the effect of computers on print culture Changing the culture of materialism will take time …— Peggy O'Mara
d : the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations
2a : enlightenment and excellence of taste acquired by intellectual and aesthetic training
b : acquaintance with and taste in fine arts, humanities, and broad aspects of science as distinguished from vocational and technical skills a person of culture
3 : the act or process of cultivating living material (such as bacteria or viruses) in prepared nutrient media also : a product of such cultivation
4 : cultivation, tillage We ought to blame the culture, not the soil.— Alexander Pope
5 : the act of developing the intellectual and moral faculties especially by education
6 : expert care and training beauty culture


cultured; culturing\ ˈkəlch-​riŋ How to pronounce culturing (audio) , ˈkəl-​chə-​ \

Definition of culture (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

2a : to grow in a prepared medium culture microorganisms
b : to start a culture from (see culture entry 1 sense 3) culture soil

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Examples of culture in a Sentence

Noun In this new view, genes allow the human mind to learn, remember, imitate, imprint language, absorb culture and express instincts. — Matt Ridley, Time, 2 June 2003 Such an explanation seems sensible to a technologically advanced and ruthlessly competitive culture like our own, where anybody who fails to get at least a college degree … risks spending a life busing tables or telemarketing. — Natalie Angier, New York Times, 2 July 2002 There is an Arctic Indian tribe, the Gwich'in—the northernmost Indians in the United States—who base their diet and culture on the caribou. — Jimmy Carter, National Geographic Traveler, October 2001 Underlying the question "Is this as good as it gets?" was a female j'accuse—against a consumer culture where values like caring had been severely discounted. — Susan Faludi, Newsweek, 8 Jan. 2001 a study of Greek language and culture Her art shows the influence of pop culture. It's important to learn about other cultures. The company's corporate culture is focused on increasing profits. an area that has been criticized for its lack of culture Verb The virus is cultured in the laboratory from samples of infected tissue. culture bacteria in laboratory dishes
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Jonathan Papamerenghi, a member of the Piacenza council with responsibility for culture, tells Italian newspaper La Repubblica, as quoted by Tondo. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "Painting Found Inside Walls of Italian Gallery May Be a Stolen Klimt," 11 Dec. 2019 In a culture where men are socialized away from empathy, listening, affection, and asking for help, Karamo’s scenes are instruction manuals: How-tos that unlock in even the most hardened guy a forgotten self. Thomas Page Mcbee, Teen Vogue, "Queer Eye's Karamo on Masculinity, Apologies, and Sean Spicer," 10 Dec. 2019 This was twenty-first-century agitprop, steeped in globalized culture and designed for digital virality. Jiayang Fan, The New Yorker, "Hong Kong’s Protest Movement and the Fight for the City’s Soul," 9 Dec. 2019 Lesbians in pop culture were either the object of a joke or an object of male fantasy. Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner, Glamour, "LGBTQ+ People on the Power of Watching The L Word for the First Time," 9 Dec. 2019 Zigmond, like many people, sees sickness in contemporary working culture. Wired, "Dis Tech Buddhists All You Want—but Read This Book First," 6 Dec. 2019 Every December, the world of art and design comes together in Miami to celebrate craft, culture, and creative camaraderie. Lucia Tonelli, ELLE Decor, "The Best Things to See and Do During Miami Design Week 2019," 4 Dec. 2019 Patane wrote that there has been a shift in the workplace culture under the new management. Alison Dirr, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "'Frightening ignorance': Fire and Police Commission investigator resigns in protest in latest turnover," 3 Dec. 2019 In a digitally advanced culture, there is still one thing that can’t be experienced via screen: scent. Fortune, "Behind the Science of Scent Marketing: How Smell Changes the Way We Experience Everything From Shopping Malls to Hotels," 30 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The skin was cultured in a lab from Ja’bari’s own biopsied cells by a Boston-area company that produces skin grafts for severely burned patients who lack enough healthy skin for traditional grafts. Lauren Caruba,, "Ja’bari Gray, San Antonio baby born without skin, finally goes home," 13 Nov. 2019 Her mother referred to her as sweet, smart, well-traveled and cultured, according to the news station. oregonlive, "Suspicious death of Newport woman, 34, under investigation," 29 Oct. 2019 They can also be made just like dairy yogurts and cultured with bacteria. Becky Krystal, Washington Post, "Grab a spoon. It’s time to make sense of the yogurt aisle.," 16 Sep. 2019 From the pastures, the cows produce a daily flow of milk churned into butter, cultured into yogurt, and curdled into wheels of alpine cheese. Danielle Bernabe, National Geographic, "Eat, drink, and herd cattle at this Austrian festival," 15 Sep. 2019 Last month, Wild Type held a tasting at a restaurant in Portland, Ore., where guests were served an array of salmon dishes — from Hawaiian poke to ceviche verde to sushi rolls — all made from fish the company had cultured. David Yaffe-bellany, New York Times, "The Fish Is Boneless. (Fishless, Too.)," 10 July 2019 Memphis Meats, based in Emeryville, Calif., is one of a growing number of startups worldwide that are making cell-based or cultured meat. Terence Chea,, "‘People want meat. They don’t want slaughter’: The promise and problems of lab-grown protein.," 9 July 2019 Still, Sestan and his team were able to culture, or grow, active cells from that tissue — tissue that was, for all practical purposes, entirely dead. Matthew Shaer, New York Times, "Scientists Are Giving Dead Brains New Life. What Could Go Wrong?," 2 July 2019 Scientists are able to culture cells such as endothelial cells [which line the inside of blood and lymphatic vessels] for a little bit longer. Andrea Thompson, Scientific American, "Medicine in Space: What Microgravity Can Tell Us about Human Health," 7 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'culture.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of culture


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4


1510, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for culture

Noun and Verb

Middle English, cultivated land, cultivation, from Anglo-French, from Latin cultura, from cultus, past participle — see cult

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Time Traveler for culture

Time Traveler

The first known use of culture was in the 15th century

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Statistics for culture

Last Updated

15 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Culture.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 15 December 2019.

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More Definitions for culture


How to pronounce culture (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of culture

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time
: a particular society that has its own beliefs, ways of life, art, etc.
: a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization (such as a business)



English Language Learners Definition of culture (Entry 2 of 2)

technical : to grow (something) in controlled conditions


cul·​ture | \ ˈkəl-chər How to pronounce culture (audio) \

Kids Definition of culture

2 : the raising or development (as of a crop or product) by careful attention grape culture
3 : the appreciation and knowledge of the arts (as music, dance, and painting)
4 : the habits, beliefs, and traditions of a particular people, place, or time Greek culture


cul·​ture | \ ˈkəl-chər How to pronounce culture (audio) \

Medical Definition of culture

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : the integrated pattern of human behavior that includes thought, speech, action, and artifacts and depends upon the human capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations
b : the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group
2a : the act or process of growing living material (as bacteria or viruses) in prepared nutrient media
b : a product of cultivation in nutrient media

Other Words from culture

cultural \ ˈkəlch(-​ə)-​rəl How to pronounce cultural (audio) \ adjective
culturally \ -​rə-​lē How to pronounce culturally (audio) \ adverb
cultured; culturing\ ˈkəlch-​(ə-​)riŋ How to pronounce culturing (audio) \

Medical Definition of culture (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to grow (as microorganisms or tissues) in a prepared medium
2 : to start a culture from culture soil also : to make a culture of culture milk

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Comments on culture

What made you want to look up culture? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


delight or enjoyment

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