Difference Between Caste and Cast
The words ‘caste’ and ‘cast’ have completely different meanings. While they are spelled similarly and pronounced the same, they come from different languages. ‘Caste’ is from Portuguese and Spanish and was picked up fairly recently, while ‘cast’ is from Proto-Germanic and has existed in the language for centuries.
‘Caste’ is a very specific word and has only one possible meaning. A caste is a group or class in society that mainly interacts with each other. When there is more than one in a society, that society has a caste system. Castes are often hereditary and include things like only marrying people within the caste, working a limited number of jobs, and often staying within a certain position in the social hierarchy.
A caste system is a very rigid form of social stratification. While stratification has existed to some degree in most known societies, castes are typically linked to birth or even ethnic origin, and there is not much chance of advancement. Many caste systems also feature restrictions on simple interactions between castes; in India, the types of food or drink you can accept from another person depend on what caste they are from in relation to yourself.
The word ‘cast’ has quite a few meanings, but they can be put together into a few broader groups. It is both a verb and a noun.
The original meaning of the word was the verb ‘to throw’. Today, there is a group of general meanings of ‘to move away’ or ‘to be moved away’, especially something that has been ‘cast down’ or ‘cast aside’. This includes meanings such as ‘to discard’.
“She quickly tore open the wrapping paper and cast it aside.”
There are other, more specific phrases, such as ‘cast a light’, which is to throw light onto something, ‘cast a shadow’, which means to have something block the light, ‘cast a ballot’, which is to vote, or ‘a casting vote’, which usually means a vote which breaks a tie or stalemate.
This is also one of the possible noun meanings, which is usually a synonym for ‘throw’.
A related meaning is to perform a magical spell.
“I cast Magic Missile at the darkness.”
The next group of meanings is related to shaping an object. A cast is an object which is created for a type of material that is liquid when heated and solid at room temperature, such as metal or plastic. The hot liquid is poured into the cast and cooled, and it comes out solid in the shape of the cast. In some cases, the resulting object is also called a cast. ‘Cast’ is also the verb for this process.
“They cast the metal in the shape of an eagle.”
Related to this is an object that is used to help heal broken bones. When someone breaks their arm, the bone is put back into alignment and a cast is put on to hold it in place so that it will not heal improperly. Once again, ‘cast’ might also be used as a verb for this process.
Finally, a cast is a group of actors in a show. The verb of it is again, ‘cast’, and means to put an actor in a certain role.
This is not an exhaustive list of the possible meanings of ‘cast’, but these are the most common. There are other, more specialized meanings, such as spreading out to search for signs of an animal while hunting, and there are some which have fallen out of use.
To summarize, a caste is a stratified group of people in society who often intermarry and can only take certain occupations. The word ‘cast’ can refer to a number of things, but most often to throwing, to shaping an object, or to a group of actors.
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