Meaning of Caste

What is Caste:

The word caste, as a noun, refers to lineage or ancestry of a particular social group. Those who belong to said lineage share phenotypic, religious, cultural or historical traits, from which a series of duties and/or rights attributed in society follows.

The origin of the word caste is indeterminate. In some sources, like the Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academyit is argued that it derives from the Gothic term kastanassociated with the zoological meaning of ‘group of animals’.

There are also those who maintain that it comes from the Latin castuswhich means ‘pure’, a meaning applied by the Portuguese during the exploration period (16th-17th centuries) to refer to certain social groups in India, organized in endogamous systems.

caste system

Caste system is an expression that refers to those societies whose organization and functioning are based on castes, that is, on groups of people classified according to their line of birth, which determines their role and social function for life.

Caste systems were widely used in ancient societies, and are still in use in certain non-Western societies.

Examples of caste systems

A example of non-Western caste system still in force is the caste system in india.

A example history already repealed, although close, is the colonial caste system in Ibero-America.

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Characteristics of caste systems

Every caste system is different. However, some common features can be established.

  • Society is divided into segments;
  • Segments are determined by degree of racial or ethnic purity;
  • The social hierarchy is determined by ethnic origin;
  • The distribution of social roles and work is also adjusted to ethnic origin;
  • The occupations of each caste are hereditary;
  • In some societies, a religious justification is attributed to the caste system;
  • Some caste systems are totally inbred; others allow miscegenation but only formally validate unions between equals or between castes with a similar degree of purity;
  • Each caste in the same society has its own eating habits.

colonial caste system

Castes in Latin America emerged in the colonial period from the process of miscegenation among whites, from Europe; the Indians, inhabitants of the American territory, and the blacks, slaves brought from Africa.

Caste system nomenclatures varied from locality to locality and, even there, varied in popular usage, so that confusion could occur. There were various lists and criteria to represent the caste universe of colonial society.

Types of castes in the Viceroyalty of New Spain

According to the image below, the caste types in new spain most clearly defined during the eighteenth century were:


Chart of castes in New Spain according to anonymous from the 18th century (Tepotzotlán)

  1. Half Blood: Spanish with Indian
  2. Castizo: mestizo with Spanish
  3. Spanish: castizo with Spanish
  4. Mulatto: Spanish with mora (black)
  5. Moorish: mulatto with Spanish
  6. Chinese: Moorish with Spanish
  7. sat back: Chinese with Indian
  8. Wolf: jump back with mulatto
  9. Gibaro either jíbaro: wolf with china
  10. basked: gíbaro (jíbaro) with mulatto
  11. change: basked with black
  12. Sambaigo (zambaigo): I exchange with India
  13. Calpamulate: sambaigo with she-wolf
  14. hang in the air: calpamulato with cambuja
  15. I don’t understand you: tempt in the air with mulatto
  16. turn back: I don’t understand you with India
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Types of castes in South America

There were also other classifications of the caste system widely used in South America, although they also came to be used in New Spain. To know how many castes came into existence in that society, it is enough to review this list:

  1. Creole: europeans in america
  2. Half Blood: Spanish and indigenous
  3. Castizo, castizo cuatralbo either mestizo quarter: Spanish with mestizo
  4. Spanish: castizo with spanish
  5. Baboon either jarocho: indigenous with black
  6. tight zambo: black with club
  7. Mulatto: Spanish with black
  8. Moorish (different from peninsular Moriscos) or mulatto quarter: mulatto with Spanish
  9. Albino or octagon: Spanish with Moorish
  10. jump back either backhopper: albino with spanish
  11. Packed: mestizo with mulatto
  12. cholos, coyote either meslindian: indigenous with mestizo
  13. Chinese either dark mulatto: mulatto with indigenous
  14. Galfarro: mulatto with black
  15. Harmful: Spanish with cholo
  16. Harmful: castizo with mestizo
  17. shack either chamiso: coyote with indigenous
  18. mongrel coyote: chamizo with mestizo
  19. change: Chinese with indigenous
  20. Wolf: jump back with mulatto
  21. Gibaro either jíbaro: wolf with chinese
  22. basked: gíbaro with mulatto
  23. change: brushed with black
  24. Sambaigo: exchange with indigenous
  25. Campamulato: sambaigo with wolf
  26. hang in the air: campamulato with cambujo
  27. I don’t understand you: tempt in the air with mulatto
  28. turn back: I don’t understand you with India

See also:

  • Castes in New Spain.
  • Race
  • ethnicity

caste in zoology

In zoology, caste refers to the group of individuals of the same species that, organized in society, fulfill specific and differentiated functions from other groups. For example, some insects develop a certain type of society, in which various groups responsible for certain functions are distinguished. This is the case of bees, wasps and ants.

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Take the case of ants. Ants are organized in societies divided into castes. The majority group represents the worker caste, responsible for building the nest, caring for the larvae and feeding the queen. They also have soldier ants, queen ants (fertile ants responsible for reproduction), and winged males (responsible for fertilizing the fertile ants).

chaste woman

By chaste woman is meant a sexually pure woman. In this case, the word caste works as a qualifying adjective associated with the virtue of chastity.