The Ultimate Anthropology Glossary

Acculturation – a culture change that results from any kind of contact between differing cultures

Adaptation – the process of a culture changing to accommodate its living conditions and coping with them

Affinal – refers to relations that are linked through the martial line

Age set – social group that is defined by the age of people within the group

Animism – belief that inanimate objects like rocks, trees or celestial bodies have divinity or spirit

Anthropological linguistics – anthropology branch that focuses on human languages

Anthropology – the study of humanity; it’s divided into sciences like physical anthropology, archaeology, ethnology, and anthropological linguistics

Assimilation – the absorption of one particular ethnic group into another so that the traits of the two become indistinguishable

Band – small group of people who are usually related through family bonds; there is usually an older person who’s the leader

Bilineal – a line of descent in which people consider themselves kin with both of their parents’ descent group

Brideprice – an economic exchange between a groom’s family and a bride’s family whereupon compensation is paid to the bride’s family for taking her from the home

Bureaucracy – type of government that’s based on a set of offices that are organized in a hierarchy

Cannibalism – the act of consuming the flesh of humans by another human beings; sometimes performed as part of a sacrifice or other rite

Caste system – system that ranks people in a society by their occupation or purity as determined by their birth

Chiefdom – the political organization of a group that is inherited through bloodlines

Clan – a group of people that is believed to be descended from a common ancestor; the link is often assumed but not proven

Colonialism – a forced change in a culture that occurs when another culture dominates them

Conspicuous consumption – the act of displaying material items like jewels or art for the express purpose of impressing others

Core values – the attitudes and belief structure of a single culture

Cross-cousin – refers to the children of a person’s opposite-sexed parent’s sibling – i.e., for a male, it refers to his mother’s brother’s children

Diffusion – the spread of certain cultural aspects from one culture to another where the agent of change is not readily apparent

Division of labor – division of work in a society between specific groups like men and women, young and old, ability and experience, etc

Domestication – the interference of humans into the natural breeding patterns of animals or planets

Dowry – a woman’s share of inheritance from her birth group; it’s usually taken with her when she enters a marriage

Emic – refers to an insider’s view of a culture

Enculturation – process of learning the basics of one’s own culture; sometimes called “socialization”

Ethnocentrism – the judging of other cultures by the standards of one’s own personal choosing; usually the one doing the judging considers themselves superior

Ethnography – the description of a culture that’s based on the methods of the person doing the observing of said culture

Ethnology – a comparative analysis of specific cultural patterns that are used to explain the similarities and differences between cultures

Evolution – phrase used to describe a change in the form of a culture

Extinction – refers to a culture dying out

Genealogy – a family tree that traces relationships through someone’s parents and children

Horticulture – agricultural technology that is distinguished by the use of hand tools only to grow crops – not horses, irrigation and/or fertilizers

Imperialism – system that occurs when economic control is gained by the corporate organization of nation states

– name for a group of people who are related either by blood, marriage or adoption

Life cycle
– the term used to describe the set of states that people go through from their birth all theway to their death

Lineage – name for a descent group whose members can trade their blood or marriage links all the way back to a single known common ancestry

Matriarchy – society wherein a mother and women have authority over the males

Nature-nurture – the name for the contrasting of the basis for people’s biological behavior, their cultural behavior, and their environmental behavior

Old World – name used to refer to Europe, Africa, and Asia, the regions where human history has been documented the longest

Pacification – the extending of a national government’s authority over a people that are autonomous, usually by force

Peer group – refers to subgroups in society that are determined by factors like age or social status

Postmodern – view that society and social and cultural reality is a human construct

Redistribution – the act of a government gathering goods and services from a society and then relocating them amongst those members of society

Social network – the relationships between individuals with their friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and others in the group that they belong

Spirit cult – specific group that adheres to a religious belief system that says spirits interfere with the affairs of the living

Sustainable – ability to continue something in the foreseeable future

Tribe – a group that is centered around family units of common-interest groups

Urbanization – the process by which people migrate in large numbers to live in cities

World view – beliefs about the workings of the world that are shared by members of a society; these can be found in myths, lore, social conduct, etc.