Definitions

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

  • n. 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.
  • n. A social class separated from others by distinctions of hereditary rank, profession, or wealth.
  • n. A social system or the principle of grading society based on castes.
  • n. The social position or status conferred by a system based on castes: lose caste by doing work beneath one's station.
  • n. 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 Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. One of the hereditary classes into which the Hindu are divided according to the laws of Brahmanism.
  • n. A separate and fixed order or class of persons in society who chiefly hold intercourse among themselves.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • A Middle English variant of chaste.
  • n. 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.
  • n. 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.
  • n. In entomology, any one of the distinct forms found among the polymorphic social insects, especially the true ants and the white ants or termites.
  • n. Same as half-caste.

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

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

Etymologies

Spanish casta, race, and Portuguese casta, race, caste, both from feminine of casto, pure, from Latin castus.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
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 (Wiktionary)

Examples

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