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 The miniature-train robbery is one of those unique moments in San Antonio pop culture history that never loses its appeal. Paula Allen,, "50 years ago, daring train robbery in San Antonio park targeted tourists; anniversary recreation to help zoo," 11 July 2020 In what might be the furthest outpost of the American culture wars, a new battle over the Confederate flag is only just beginning. Washington Post, "They lost the Civil War and fled to Brazil. Their descendants refuse to take down the Confederate flag.," 11 July 2020 But the use of homeland security resources as firepower in Trump’s culture wars has prompted former department officials to question the priorities of a federal agency still tasked with responding to national emergencies. Zolan Kanno-youngs,, "Homeland Security Turns to Defending Statues Amid Questions Over Priorities," 10 July 2020 Our Catholic school curriculum and culture are built on the understanding that children are more than their academic success. Dallas News, "Is your child getting enough from their educational experience?," 9 July 2020 That movie so thoroughly infiltrated mainstream culture, its title is still used as shorthand for any monotonous experience. Kate Knibbs, Wired, "Palm Springs Is a Timely Comedy About Being Stuck in the Now," 9 July 2020 Its algorithms use the data to to find applicants that fit company culture. Nicolás Rivero, Quartz, "There’s an AI for every step in the hiring process," 9 July 2020 The Wall Street Journal is reporting on race and American business, from hiring and promotions to corporate culture. Patrick Thomas, WSJ, "What Does Being an Ally Look Like? Companies Offer Training in Support of Black Colleagues," 13 July 2020 Lawson becomes the first Black head coach in the college basketball program's history and joins a tradition-rich athletics culture headed by men's coach Mike Krzyzewski, the Hall of Famer who has led Duke to five national championships. Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY, "Duke hires Boston Celtics assistant Kara Lawson as women's basketball coach," 12 July 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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 Afterward, researchers swabbed the bakers’ washed hands and cultured the microbes. New York Times, "At the Sourdough Library, With Some Very Old Mothers," 11 Apr. 2020 Check out Google's handy arts and culture home page for an easy guide. Glamour, "Coronavirus: All the Ways to Get Your Culture Fix While Stuck at Home," 19 Mar. 2020 To give athletes a competitive edge, researchers are tweaking brain circuits, culturing performance-boosting bacteria and experimenting with ways to enhance natural strength, speed and endurance by altering genes. Robert Lee Hotz, WSJ, "How to Build a Better Athlete," 11 Mar. 2020 Busch says that to his knowledge, nobody has cultured any live coronavirus from blood samples, meaning the viral particles circulating in the blood may not be infectious. Douglas Main, National Geographic, "Blood and organ donations shrink amid coronavirus fears," 20 Mar. 2020 By repeatedly culturing live viruses or bacteria in animal cells, scientists can essentially create a bunch of mutants. Megan Molteni, Wired, "Everything You Need to Know About Coronavirus Vaccines," 4 Mar. 2020

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

31 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Culture.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Aug. 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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