ETYM French culture, Latin cultura, from colere to till, cultivate; of uncertain origin. Related to Colony.
In sociology and anthropology, the way of life of a particular society or group of people, including patterns of thought, beliefs, behavior, customs, traditions, rituals, dress, and language, as well as art, music, and literature. Archeologists use the word to mean the surviving objects or artifacts that provide evidence of a social grouping.
The concept of culture is difficult to define precisely, since it is employed by several intellectual disciplines in distinct and different ways. The primary use of the term is in the social sciences, where it refers to the whole way of life—both material and spiritual—of a particular society. The word “culture” is also commonly used to refer to the arts and intellectual activity in general; thus, a cultured (or cultivated) person is taken to mean someone who seeks to improve themselves by the contemplation of such things. This is sometimes called high culture, by way of contrast to mass culture, or popular culture, which is more recreational and less concerned with intellectual improvement. The academic discipline of cultural studies makes no qualitative disctinction between the two, and analyses a cultural phenomenon such as the pop singer Madonna in much the same way as it would a novel by Leo Tolstoy.
The origin of the word is in the Latin cultura meaning “cultivation of the soil”, a sense still to be found in such words as “agriculture”. From this root it was applied metaphorically to the intellect, so that the expression “the culture of the mind”, common in the 17th century, suggested both development and improvement. Culture was taken to be the process of achieving this. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries its meaning shifted from the process to the achievement: culture now meant a general state of intellectual and moral development in a society as a whole, and was more or less synonymous with civilization.
In the late 19th century, “culture” entered the language of the new social sciences. E B Tylor in Primitive Culture defined it as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, laws, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society”. Initially ethnologists and anthropologists looked at non-Western cultures partly with a view to proving their inferiority, despite the parallel rediscovery and appreciation of folklore and traditional customs within their own countries. Since then a more neutral use of the term has prevailed. Both the US and the UK are multicultural, and this is widely regarded as enriching the fabric of their societies. That cultural differences can be emphasized in order to divide a society can be witnessed in such conflicts as the bloody civil war in former Yugoslavia.
In biology, the growing of living cells and tissues in laboratory conditions.
1. A particular civilization at a particular stage.
2. The tastes in art and manners that are favored by a social group.
3. (Biology) The growing of microorganisms in a nutrient medium (such as gelatin or agar).
4. The raising of plants or animals.