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 Isla said between 80 and 100 new figures have appeared in recent years in the Palpa and Nazca valleys, but these predate the Nazca culture (AD 200-700). Jessica Poitevien, Travel + Leisure, "An Ancient Image of an Enormous Lounging Cat Has Been Discovered in a Peruvian Desert," 20 Oct. 2020 Allison Stewart writes about pop culture, music and politics for The Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune. Washington Post, "‘The Butterfly Effect’ charts Kendrick Lamar’s evolution from platinum-selling rapper to protest artist," 19 Oct. 2020 This story was produced in partnership with The Undefeated, an ESPN website that explores the intersection of race, culture, and sports. Michael A. Fletcher, National Geographic, "Black Americans see a health-care system infected by racism, new poll shows," 16 Oct. 2020 Entries include homages to pop-culture, fairy tales, and comic book characters, as well as scarecrows honoring frontline workers., "Community News For The Vernon Edition," 15 Oct. 2020 The finding seems to correlate with a University of Michigan archaeologist's 2009 discovery of similar stone formations under water in Lake Huron, near Alpena, also believed from an ancient, Ice Age-era culture. Keith Matheny, Detroit Free Press, "Group thinks it has found proof of 10,000-year-old, Ice Age culture in Straits of Mackinac," 14 Oct. 2020 So much culture in this area, from Weeksville to Bed-Stuy. Brooke Bobb, Vogue, "“The Vibe Is About Celebrating Blackness”: Meet the Women Behind Building Black Bed-Stuy," 13 Oct. 2020 Cancel culture — subjecting people to professional or social penalties for their views — has unsettled universities and workplaces. New York Times, "The First Amendment in the age of disinformation.," 13 Oct. 2020 That contributed to the Ghassulian culture, a group that thrived locally and reached huge artistic achievements. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "Archaeologists Just Uncovered the World's First Furnace from 6,500 Years Ago," 12 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb People like certain songs because of a multitude of factors, ranging from loving the stories being their favorite artists to identifying with the songs because of a certain connection to culture. Jonathan Vanian, Fortune, "How A.I. powers the music streaming of online radio and tech giants," 1 Oct. 2020 It wasn't necessarily tied to culture or background or any specific ethnicity. Anne Cohen,, "With I Care A Lot, Eiza González Says She’s Done Playing “The Hot Latina”," 15 Sep. 2020 Nash’s predecessor, Kenny Atkinson, parted ways with the team in March after Durant reportedly voiced concerns about the habits and culture the franchise was building. Connor Letourneau,, "Warriors consultant Steve Nash leaves for Nets’ head-coaching job," 3 Sep. 2020 Whether the Hong Kong case was infectious after his second brush with SARS-CoV-2 is not clear; the researchers are trying to culture live virus from the patient, To says. Kai Kupferschmidt, Science | AAAS, "Some people can get the pandemic virus twice, a study suggests. That is no reason to panic," 24 Aug. 2020 In truth, all architecture is vernacular: It is tied to place and to culture, however much glass-and-steel modernism has attempted to deny or ignore this fact. Darran Anderson, The Atlantic, "Why Every City Feels the Same Now," 24 Aug. 2020 The statement called for structural change and racial justice in fields that relate to culture like journalism, film, theater, fashion and more. Rasha Ali, USA TODAY, "Usher, Lupita Nyong'o, Taylor Swift and more celebrities honor Juneteenth, call for action," 19 June 2020 With an improbable amount of luck, a coronavirus might take on the mutations needed to infect humans while being cultured in a lab, the researchers conceded. Los Angeles Times, "Was the coronavirus made in a Wuhan lab? Here’s what the genetic evidence shows," 9 May 2020 According to a press release, creatures that live in extreme conditions, like tardigrades, are difficult to culture in the lab. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "California’s Saltiest Lake Is Home to This Arsenic-Resistant, Three-Sexed Worm," 1 Oct. 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

23 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Culture.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Oct. 2020.

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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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