Caste

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A caste is an elaborate and complex social system that combines elements of occupation, endogamy, culture, social class, tribe affiliation and political power. Caste should not be confused with nobility, race or class, in that members of all castes in one society belong to the same race, but members of the same class, or nobility, (even in the same society) may be of different race and or caste.

Although Indian society is often now associated with the word "caste", it was first used by the Portuguese to describe inherited class status in their own European society . English caste is from Latin castus "pure, cut off, segregated", and the participle of carere "to cut off". Application to Hindu social groups originates in the 17th century, via Portuguese casta "breed, race, caste".

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