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Customs can be social norms are the behavioral expectations and cues within a society or group. This sociological term has been defined as "the rules that a group uses for appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors." These rules may be explicit or implicit. Failure to follow the rules can result in severe punishments, including exclusion from the group."[1] They have also been described as the "customary rules of behavior that coordinate our interactions with others."[2] The social norms indicate the established and approved ways of doing things, of dress, of speech and of appearance. These vary and evolve not only through time but also vary from one age group to another and between social classes and social groups. What is deemed to be acceptable dress, speech or behaviour in one social group may not be accepted in another. Deference to the social norms maintains one's acceptance and popularity within a particular group; ignoring the social norms risks one becoming unacceptable, unpopular or even an outcast from a group. What is deemed acceptable to young people is often unacceptable to elderly people[citation needed]; this difference is caused by the different social norms that operate and are tacitly agreed-upon in such different groups of people. Social norms tend to be tacitly established and maintained through body language and non-verbal communication between people in their normal social discourse. We soon come to know when and where it is appropriate to say certain things, to use certain words, to discuss certain topics or wear certain clothes and when not to. We also come to know through experience what types of people we can and cannot discuss certain topics with or wear certain types of dress around. Mostly this knowledge is derived experientially.

These can become "rules" of behaviour in both both formal and informal expression, but the later is often found to be stronger. These may be designated as:

  • Folkways: Informal rules and norms whose violation is not offensive, but expected to be followed. It's a kind of adjusting, accommodating type of habits. It does not invite any punishment or sanctions, but some reprimands or warnings.
  • Mores: They are also informal rules which are not written, but results in severe punishments and social sanction upon the individuals like social and religious exclusions.


  • 1. a. A habitual or usual practice; common way of acting; usage, fashion, habit (either of an individual or of a community).
b. The practising of anything habitually; the being or becoming accustomed.
c. of custom: according to custom, usually, as usual; also adjectivally, usual, customary. Obs.
d. custom of women (med.L. consuetudo): menstruation. Obs.
e. Applied to specific usages of particular peoples; e.g. the periodical massacres in Dahome.
  • 2. Law. An established usage which by long continuance has acquired the force of a law or right, esp. the established usage of a particular locality, trade, society, or the like. In French history applied to the special usages of different provinces and districts which had grown into a local body of law, as the custom of Normandy, of Paris, etc.
  • 3. Customary service due by feudal tenants to their lord; customary rent paid in kind or in money; any customary tax or tribute paid to a lord or ruler. Obs. in actual use.
  • 4. a. Tribute, toll, impost, or duty, levied by the lord or local authority upon commodities on their way to market; esp. that levied in the name of the king or sovereign authority upon merchandise exported from or imported into his dominions; now levied only upon imports from foreign countries. the Customs: the duties levied upon imports as a branch of the public revenue; the department of the Civil Service employed in levying these duties. (Now rarely in singular, and never with a.) In this sense the OE. name was toll (Ger. zoll); consuetudo occurs in Magna Carta, custuma in med.L. passim. In early times the customs were distinguished as magna custuma, ‘the great custom’, levied upon exports and imports, and parva custuma, ‘the little custom’, levied upon goods taken to market within the realm.
b. customs (freq. without article), the area at a seaport, airport, etc., where goods, luggage, and other items are examined and customs duties levied.
  • 5. The practice of customarily resorting to a particular shop, place of entertainment, etc. to make purchases or give orders; business patronage or support.
  • 6. a. attrib. and Comb., as (sense 1) custom-generated, -governed adjs.; (sense 2-3) custom law, -service; (sense 4) custom-collector, -gatherer; customs duties, laws, officer, official, union, etc.; CUSTOM-HOUSE; (sense 5) custom-shrunk adj., -work; custom-built, -made adjs., built or made to order or to measure; so custom-build v. trans.; {dag}custom-day, ? a day on which a customary service is rendered by a tenant; custom-free a., free from custom, toll, or tribute; free from custom duty; custom-mill, (a) a mill belonging to a feudal proprietor at which his tenants are obliged to grind their corn, paying ‘custom’ for the accommodation; (b) a mill that grinds for customers; custom-office = CUSTOM-HOUSE; {dag}custom-sick a., morbidly subject to custom or habit; custom smelter U.S., a smelter who treats rock or ore for customers.
b. attrib. passing into adj. Designating articles made to measure or to order, or places where such articles are made, or people producing work of this kind; = BESPOKE ppl. a. Also fig. Hence as advb., in combs., as custom-fitted, -mixed, -tailored adjs. Cf. custom-built, -made above. Chiefly U.S.