Caste is derived from a Portuguese word ‘caste which means breed, race or class. The Portuguese’s used this word first to identify small social groups in Hindu Society. In India the word ‘caste’ corresponds with ‘jat’ or Jati’ which means ‘Birth”.

On the other hand, the word ‘jati’ has been derived from the Sanskrit root ‘Jana’ which means ‘to take birth’. Therefore, caste refers to a particular group of people, the social membership of which is based upon birth and they create division of labor by their hereditary occupation.

Definition of caste:

Caste is defined in a number of ways. Some of the important definitions are given below.


Herbert Rishley defines “Caste as a collection of families bearing a common name, claiming a common descent from a mythical ancestor, human or divine, professing to follow the same hereditary calling and regarded by those who are competent to give an opinion as forming a single homogenous community.

According to Ketkar, “a caste is social group having two characteristics: i) Membership is confined to those who are born of the members and includes all persons so born ii) the members are forbidden by an inexorable social law not marry outside the group.

C.H.Cooley, says, “When a class is strictly hereditary, we may call it a caste.