Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Any of the hereditary, endogamous social classes or subclasses of traditional Hindu society, stratified according to Hindu ritual purity, especially the Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaisya, and Sudra castes.
  • noun A social class separated from others by distinctions of hereditary rank, profession, or wealth.
  • noun A social system or the principle of grading society based on castes.
  • noun The social position or status conferred by a system based on castes.
  • noun A specialized level in a colony of social insects, such as ants, in which the members, such as workers or soldiers, carry out a specific function.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun One of the artificial divisions or social classes into which the Hindus are rigidly separated according to the religious law of Brahmanism, and of which the privileges or disabilities are transmitted by inheritance.
  • noun Hence A division of society, or the principle of grading society, according to external conditions; a class or grade separated from others by differences of wealth, hereditary rank or privileges, or by profession or employment.
  • A Middle English variant of chaste.
  • noun In entomology, any one of the distinct forms found among the polymorphic social insects, especially the true ants and the white ants or termites.
  • noun Same as half-caste.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun One of the hereditary classes into which the Hindu are divided according to the laws of Brahmanism.
  • noun A separate and fixed order or class of persons in society who chiefly hold intercourse among themselves.
  • noun to be degraded from the caste to which one has belonged; to lose social position or consideration.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun Any of the hereditary social classes and subclasses of South Asian societies.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun in some social insects (such as ants) a physically distinct individual or group of individuals specialized to perform certain functions in the colony
  • noun a social class separated from others by distinctions of hereditary rank or profession or wealth
  • noun (Hinduism) a hereditary social class among Hindus; stratified according to ritual purity
  • noun social status or position conferred by a system based on class

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Spanish casta, race, and Portuguese casta, race, caste, both from feminine of casto, pure, from Latin castus; see kes- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Portuguese or Spanish casta ("lineage, breed, race"), of uncertain origin. The OED derives it from Portuguese casto ("chaste"), from Latin castus. Coromines (1987) argues instead for a hypothetical Gothic form *𐌺𐌰𐍃𐍄𐍃 (kasts), cognate with English cast, from Proto-Germanic *kastuz

Examples

  • It may seem to many of my readers that to use the term caste as a principle which impels one Scotchman to help another is not exactly correct; and I must admit to having some doubts on the subject myself.

    Gold, Sport, and Coffee Planting in Mysore

  • But the word "caste" is routinely used by government experts to refer to social strata in underprivileged Muslim communities.

    For India's Lowest Castes, Path Forward Is 'Backward'

  • The following is taken from Rumer Godden's short story "The Oyster," about a young Indian, Gopal, of the Hindu Brahmin caste, who is happily studying in France and learning all things western.

    Archive 2009-07-01

  • That figure sounds way too low if caste is defined as jati, at least for Bombay.

    India fact of the day

  • The following is taken from Rumer Godden's short story "The Oyster," about a young Indian, Gopal, of the Hindu Brahmin caste, who is happily studying in France and learning all things western.

    Housekeeping in India

  • The thing about wealth, though, (and I think when we talk class these days, for most people in North America, we are talking about finances, for class as caste is less deeply ingrained here) is that it ebbs and flows.

    Privileged

  • The word caste is infact a Portuguese word and primarily refers to the caste systems found in South America.

    Inclusion always bothers exclusivists -- Obama, religious diversity, and conservative Christians | RELIGION Blog | dallasnews.com

  • The word caste is derived from the spanish word casta which means breed, race, strain or hereditary complex of hereditary qualities.

    What is sociological concept of caste system in India

  • The thing about wealth, though, (and I think when we talk class these days, for most people in North America, we are talking about finances, for class as caste is less deeply ingrained here) is that it ebbs and flows.

    Archive 2007-03-01

  • Let me remove the word caste for it is politically incorrect etiquette and use the word traditional panchayats.

    India's Mob Justice

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