Culture (derived from the “Latin cultura” stemming from “colere”, meaning “to cultivate”) is a term that has many different meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of “culture” in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions. However, the word “culture” is most commonly used in three basic senses:

  • Excellence of taste in the fine arts and humanities, also known as high culture
  • An integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning
  • The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group

It is the sum of attitudes, customs, and beliefs that distinguishes one group of people from another. Culture is transmitted, through language, material objects, ritual, institutions, and art, from one generation to the next.

Culture also refers to refined music, art, and literature; one who is well versed in these subjects is considered “cultured.”

“For without culture or holiness, which are always the gift of a very few, a man may renounce wealth or any other external thing, but he cannot renounce hatred, envy, jealousy, revenge. Culture is the sanctity of the intellect.” [William Butler Yeats]

It is the total range of activities and ideas of a group of people with shared traditions, which are transmitted and reinforced by members of the group. It can be viewed as the artistic and social pursuits, expression, and tastes valued by a society or class, as in the arts, manners, dress, etc. It can be percieved as the enlightenment or refinement resulting from these pursuits.

Culture is also a term used to describe 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. It can also be viewed as that which is excellent in the arts, manners, etc.