Definition of Culture

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Although culture impacts our lives deeply, it is very difficult to define culture. Actually, even more than half a century ago Kroeber and Kluckhohn gathered 164 different definitions of culture and the number is going up since then.  At Dino Lingo we compiled more than 35 definitions of “culture” including the most recent to better understand the influence of this unique concept on languages. Enjoy

Culture can be defined as…

“The act of developing the intellectual and moral faculties especially by education” Merriam Webster Dictionary

“The quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc.”

“The training and refinement of mind, tastes, and manners; the condition of being thus trained and refined; the intellectual side of civilisation.” Oxford Dictionary

“Colere, which means “to cultivate” in Latin” Harper, Douglas (2001). Online Etymology Dictionary

“The system of shared beliefs, values, customs, behaviours, and artifacts that the members of society use to cope with their world and with one another, and that are transmitted from generation to generation through learning” Bates and Plog (1990)

“The learned and shared behavior of a community of interacting human beings” (p. 169). Useem & Useem, 1963

“The shared knowledge and schemes created by a set of people for perceiving, interpreting, expressing, and responding to the social realities around them” Lederach, 1995

“A way of thinking, feeling, believing. It is the knowledge stored up (in memories of men, in books and objects) for future use—patterns for doing certain things in certain ways, not the doing of them.” Kluckhohn, 1962

“The shared patterns of behaviors and interactions, cognitive constructs, and affective understanding that are learned through a process of socialization. These shared patterns identify the members of a culture group while also distinguishing those of another group.” Center for Advance Research on Language Acquisition

“The integrated pattern of human behavior that includes thought, speech, action, and artifacts and its survival depends on man’s capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding-generations” Deal and Kennedy, 1982

“Culture is the collective programming of the human mind that distinguishes the members of one human group from those of another. Culture in this sense is a system of collectively held values.”
Geert Hofstede, 1984

“Culture is the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one category of people from another.” Hofstede, 2001

“the totality of socially transmitted behavioral patterns, arts, beliefs, values, customs, life-ways, and all other products of human work and thought characteristics of a population of people that guide their world view and decision making.” Purnell and Paulanka, 2003
“The word “culture” stems from a Latin root that means the tilling of the soil, like in agriculture. In many modern languages the word is used in a figurative sense, with two meanings:

The first, most common, meaning is “civilization”, including education, manners, arts and crafts and their products. It is the domain of a “ministry of culture”.
The second meaning derives from social anthropology, but in the past decades it has entered common parlance. It refers to the way people think, feel, and act. Geert has defined it as “the collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from another”. The “category” can refer to nations, regions within or across nations, ethnicities, religions, occupations, organizations, or the genders. A simpler definition is ‘the unwritten rules of the social game.”

” Shared motives, values, beliefs, identities, and interpretations or meanings of significant events that result from common experiences of memhers of collectives that are transmitted across generations” House,2004, (GLOBE project)

“The deeply seated (often subconscious) values and beliefs shared by personnel in an organisation.” martin, 2003
“the beliefs and assumptions shared by members of an organization.” Nahavandi, 1988

” A system of shared assumptions that has developed over time to solve problems of environmental adaptation and internal integration” Schein, 1985; Van Maanen and Barley, 1983

“The social heritage of a community, meaning ‘‘. . . the sum total of the possessions, ways of thinking and behaviour which distinguishes one group of people from another and which tend to be passed down from generation to generation . . .’’ (Parkes et al., 1997)” cited in Hall, 2005

“An individual’s characteristic way of perceiving the man-made part of one’s environment. It involves the perception of rules, norms, roles etc.” Triandis, 1972

“A system of meanings that accompany the myriad of behaviors and practices
recognized as a distinct way of life.” Melinek, et al., 1983

” Learned behavior in the absence of explicit teaching. ” Senft et al., 2009
“A ‘blueprint for behaviour’ prescribing what a person must do, ought to do, should do and must not do.” Cited in Hurwitz and Chrintiansen, 1983

” A unified set of meaning systems.” Keller et al. 2002

“Set of basic assumptions that a given group has invented, discovered, or developed in learning to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration ” cited in Singh, 2009

“Culture is defined as a system of norms, behavior, expressions and values shared by a group of people and includes such cultural manifestations as buildings, cities, works of art, institutions and laws that this group has created.” Steinbacher, 1979

“Culture is the deeper level of basic assumptions and beliefs that are shared by members of an organization, that operate unconsciously and define in a basic ‘taken for granted’ fashion an organization’s view of its self and its environment.” Schein, 2004

“Fragments of folklore, food, dancing, music, and customs.” Mackey, 2002

“The existence of a viable community of individuals with a shared heritage (language, history, etc.)” Kymlicka, 1989

“Shared values and beliefs relating to fundamental issues, together with the forms in which they are expressed.” Throsby, 2006

“The patterned ways of thought and behavior that characterize a social group, which are learned through socialization processes and persist through time.” Coreil, Bryant & Henderson, 2001

“Learned, shared symbolic behavior that functions as an adaptive mechanism as well as a guide for collective and individual human action.” Blanchard, 1995

“A set of shared assumptions, values, and behaviours that characterize the functioning of an organization.” Schwalbe, 2006

“The characteristic way in which people perceive their social environment.” Triandis, 1973

“The shared philosophies, ideologies, values, assumptions, beliefs, expectations, attitudes, and norms that knit a community together” Kilman et al., 1986

” A collective organization of behaviors, ideas, attitudes, values, beliefs and customs shared by a group of people and socially transmitted across generations through language and other communication modes” Vyas and Ahuja, 2008

” The whole way of life of a particular society.” Kuper and Kuper, 1985

“A system of knowledge, of standards for perceiving, believing, evaluating and acting.” Magalhães, 2004

“Patterns of representations, actions, and artifacts that are distributed or spread by social interaction.” Kitayama, 2007

“The set of attitudes, beliefs, behaviours as well as artefacts, which are shared by a specific set of individuals.” Frensch, 2007

” A series of codes, symbols, forms of knowledge, and strategies for survival related to location and common values.” Jenkins, 2008

” A system of symbols and meanings.” Parsons, 1951

“A package of ideas, values and practices; as a repertoire of schemas; as a system of meanings, symbols and actions; as a syndrome of beliefs, norms, attitudes and roles; and as a pattern of self-definitions centered around a theme.” Hermans and Kempen, 1998

” Information that is socially transmitted between individuals. ” Cronk, 1995

“The totality of the customs, arts, science, and religious and political behavior taken as an integrated whole that distinguishes one society from another ” Atkinson et al., 1988

“The common and accepted way of thinking, feeling, and acting for a group of people.” Puri and Höllwarth, 2009

“Learned skills, attitudes, and behaviors that are transmitted from generation to generation, usually within the confines of a physical-social environment.” Carter, 1995