5 Differences Between Custom And Tradition

The differences between customs and traditions , although difficult to intuit with the naked eye, are evident and defend a totally different concept. They are two terms that represent the identity of a social group, and which can cover various areas; from a small group, such as a family, a tribe, a city, a region, a country or a continent.

The terms custom and tradition have been used throughout history, especially by people in an informal setting, both interchangeably and separately. This has made it difficult or imprecise to classify one or more ideas, idiosyncrasies and culture with one term or the other, both being closely related to the time that they have existed, and that they have been applied.

clothing can be an example to better understand the differences between tradition and customs

One way to define custom and tradition, and therefore their possible differences, is through the identification of their etymological roots.

In this way, the word custom has its origin in the Latin ‘customary’, which means “habit is our second nature.” While tradition comes from the Latin verb ‘tradere’, which means “to transmit or deliver.”

In this way, we can say that customs are habits, which can originate from the individual’s childhood, although animals also have customs, and refers to behaviors that are performed regularly, that is, without necessarily being conscious acts .           

On the other hand, the traditions will be considered all the ideas, rituals, socio-cultural manifestations, etc. that are transmitted, in social groups of any size, for several generations, finally being considered part of the idiosyncrasy of a socially and culturally similar group.

Differences between custom and tradition

1- Time

Custom : for an act or conduct to be classified as custom, it requires a certain amount of time that may vary according to the frequency in which it is performed or the social approval it has.

A very important example of custom is the language, or languages ​​spoken in a group, region, country, etc.

For a language to be adopted and its use considered a custom, it would require a series of generations to speak it regularly, but more precisely, it takes time for a new individual to adopt this code as the main means of expression.

For this reason, it is more effective to classify the words or expressions commonly used by a person or group of people as custom, rather than taking the same language as custom, with notable differences between different cultures that speak the same language.           

Tradition : traditions require a certain amount of time, cultural acceptance and adoption of the culture towards them, to be considered as such. ANDIn other words, they depend on greater diffusion, although not necessarily greater execution.

In this sense, some examples of tradition could be holidays or clothing used in certain trades or professions.

Both examples represent part of the identity of a social group, and, although in the case of clothing, it can be modified according to utility, both have spread over time.

Thus, a tradition will not necessarily require more time than a custom to be considered as such.

But since most of them represent a series of ideas, not necessarily linked to everyday life, credibility is needed and their continued execution over a period of time, so that they are considered traditions.

2- Transmission medium

Custom : for the Scottish philosopher David Hume, customs are linked, or are comparable to habits, that is, a behavior that is regularly repeated, with or without awareness of its execution.

With this in mind, a custom can be acquired through interaction between individuals in a society, but it could also be created by an individual, who, by repeating that behavior, makes it a common part of their identity.

In a linguistic environment, the words, phrases, idioms and regionalisms used in a language or linguistic variety are usually transmitted through generations, when a young individual, or new to a certain social or cultural group, is exposed to these applications of the language, and which could finally terminal using as well and finally transmitting.

Tradition : tradition could be considered by itself a means of transmission, as it is taken from its Latin origin, ‘tradere’, which means to transmit, which represents precisely one of the difficulties when differentiating a custom from a tradition.

However, the greatest means of transmission of traditions is orally. Religion, in the case of countries or regions where one religion is predominant, as in the case of Catholicism in Latin America, is a good example of tradition.

This religion has been shared since the colony, until it is considered the correct religion for many people, due to the years of practice that it has.

3- Means of manifestation

Custom : if the point of view of a custom is taken into account, such as habit or conduct constantly put into practice, this is closely linked to the individual who performs it.

This is because, using the example of linguistic variations that arise in certain regions and / or groups of people; These depend on the issuer and the oral or written language (or sign language) to be manifested, which implies an action carried out directly from the capacities of an individual.

Tradition : Traditions, just as it has been expressed in customs, can be manifested through an individual’s own abilities.

But this is not the only means of expression of traditions, since these are linked to the intellect, ideas and beliefs.

If we take a holiday, such as Valentine’s Day, the love that exists between two or more people is commemorated and its manifestation can vary according to the individual, from gifts, parties or manifestations of physical affection, among others.           

4- Social group           

Custom : a custom can be acquired or adopted by a single individual, or by large populations, according to its origin, or its social acceptance, so that it does not necessarily depend on the number of people who put it into practice.

That is, a custom can be considered as such, even if it is performed by a single individual.

Tradition : in the same way as customs, traditions do not necessarily depend on large social groups to be considered as such.

They generally result in group demonstrations, due to their inherited, transmitted or adopted character, which implies acceptance and in most cases, awareness that it is being put into practice.

5- Location

Custom : a custom is usually closely related to the place in which it arose or in which it manifests itself, but there are no specific conditions for these to occur, because each space requires different attitudes or behaviors.

Tradition : likewise, a tradition is also usually linked to its place of origin, although this is unknown, and can be adapted as belonging to a specific region or socio-cultural group, without this being the place of its conception.


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