Definition of caste in English:

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Pronunciation: /kɑːst/


1Each of the hereditary classes of Hindu society, distinguished by relative degrees of ritual purity or pollution and of social status: members of the lower castes [mass noun]: a man of high caste
More example sentences
  • In case your Hinduism is a little rusty, the Brahmans are the priest caste in traditional Hindu society.
  • Indian Christians are said to still discreetly follow pre-conversion castes of their Hindu forefathers.
  • Hindus of many castes and sects and from many parts of India have migrated, taking with them traditions that were familiar to them back home.
class, social class, order, social order, social division, grade, grading, group, grouping, station, stratum, echelon, rank, level, degree, set;
place, standing, position, status;
Hinduism  varna
archaic estate, sphere
1.1 [mass noun] The system of dividing society into castes: caste has survived among Goa’s Christians [as modifier]: the caste system
More example sentences
  • The weak character of the empire came from the rigid caste system that divided people and created unstable feelings among them.
  • To do otherwise is to lock our society into a type of caste system.
  • For another, the hierarchical, non-democratic, caste systems of childhood have nothing in common with contemporary political credos.
1.2Any class or group of people who inherit exclusive privileges or are perceived as socially distinct: those educated in private schools belong to a privileged caste
More example sentences
  • Almost half a century later their privileged lifestyle and their aura of being an exclusive caste still attracted comment.
  • He cannot do anything about his time at Eton but he must make more connections outside a privileged caste of friends.
  • A republican government does not comfortably coexist with a submerged caste within the population.
1.3 Entomology (In some social insects) a class of physically distinct individuals with a particular function in the society: in both ants and termites the workers can include specialist castes such as soldiers
More example sentences
  • In many termite species, for example, soldier castes are highly developed, and colony members never leave their nests of dead wood because, like gall aphids and gall thrips, they are able to feed off the walls.
  • And after identifying worker ants in several of the fossils, he believes that ants had already begun to specialize into castes.
  • The new study also reveals how elements in the genome may influence the development of vastly different honeybee castes, such as queens and workers, from the same genetic material.

There are four basic classes or varnas in Hindu society: Brahman (priest), Kshatriya (warrior), Vaisya (merchant or farmer), and Sudra (labourer). The lowest class, the scheduled caste (formerly known as untouchables), fall outside the varna system and have historically suffered extreme discrimination.


lose caste

Descend in the caste system, e.g. by taking employment regarded as of lower status.
Example sentences
  • Indian soldiers were only too happy to go to war on behalf of the Empire, even though, for Hindus, crossing the dark ocean meant losing caste.
  • It is a sign that they are all the same community and can live and eat together without losing caste.
1.1Come to be regarded with less respect; lose status: they lost caste by moving away from the old house
More example sentences
  • If departments were bad, ministers could be sacked; if ministers disagreed with their colleagues, they could resign without losing caste.


Mid 16th century (in the general sense 'race, breed'): from Spanish and Portuguese casta 'lineage, race, breed', feminine of casto 'pure, unmixed', from Latin castus 'chaste'.

  • The general sense in early use was ‘race, breed’. It is from Spanish and Portuguese casta ‘lineage, race, breed’, feminine of casto ‘pure, unmixed’, from Latin castus ‘chaste’, also the source of castigate (early 17th century), and chasten (mid 16th century) ‘make chaste’, and chaste (Middle English) itself. The common current use is to refer to the hereditary classes of Hindu society: Brahman (priest), Kshatriya (warrior), Vaisya (merchant or farmer), and Sudra (labourer).

Words that rhyme with caste

aghast, avast, Belfast, blast, cast, contrast, fast, last, mast, miscast, outlast, past, unsurpassed, vast

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: caste

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