Word Confusion: Outcast versus Outcaste

Posted November 7, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

I became curious about the difference between outcast and outcaste (they’re a pair of heterographs) through a series I’ve been reading, as both words were being used interchangeably. You know how OCD I am!

Turns out that there is really only one difference with the noun: outcast can apply to anyone whereas an outcaste primarily applies to someone of Indian descent, Hindu in particular.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Outcast Outcaste
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: outcast, outcaste; ErrNET

Homeless beggar in Piazza delle Erbe in the old town center

“Homeless Beggar in Piazza delle Erbe” is courtesy of Deutsche Fotothek‎ [CC BY-SA 3.0 de], via Wikimedia Commons

Being homeless is being an outcast.

Dalit or Untouchable Woman of Bombay (Mumbai) according to Indian Caste System - 1942

“Dalit or Untouchable Woman of Bombay” is courtesy of HOld Indian Photos and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Untouchables are outcastes in India.

Part of Grammar:
Adjective 1, 2; Noun 1, 3
Plural: outcasts
Noun; Verb, transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: outcastes
Past tense or past participle: outcasted
Gerund or present participle: outcasting

Rejected or cast out, as from one’s home or society

Pertaining to or characteristic of an outcast

Rejected or discarded


A person who has been rejected by society or a social group

A homeless wanderer

  • Vagabond

Rejected matter

  • Refuse

[Scottish] A falling out 3

  • Quarrel

[India] A person who has been expelled from a Hindu caste for violation of its customs or rules

A person having no caste

Someone who does not belong to a caste

Verb, transitive:
To cause someone to lose his caste
To expel someone from a caste

She was made to feel outcast and inadequate.

Their outcast son was not permitted to step foot in their home.

He wore outcast misery like a coat.

They were outcast opinions.

In the beginning, the area was settled by outcasts, adventurers, and felons.

After returning from the war, the veteran could not fit in to society and sadly became a homeless outcast.

Although most just assumed he had no friends or family, he was actually a misanthrope and preferred to be an outcast.

He is the only outcast in his family because his snobby parents do not approve of his wife.

And the pollution must be removed at the end of the prescribed period, or she remains an outcaste — a very serious thing for her. – Edgar Thurston’s Castes and Tribes of Southern India

A man of the Korku sept has the privilege of directing the ceremony for the readmission of an outcaste. – R.V. Russell’s The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India, Volume I (of IV)

All foreigners were outcaste in this land.

The rules of the caste were that once you become an outcaste, you were not permitted to return under any circumstances.

He did not agree with the Hindu lifestyle or ideals and abandoned his caste and became an outcaste.

Because she violated one of the major rules of the caste and caused significant embarrassment, she was expelled and became a permanent outcaste.

Verb, transitive:
He was outcaste from his people.

He has deliberately elected to outcaste himself.

Her strict parents did not like her boyfriend so they reported her to their caste who decided to outcaste her.

History of the Word:
Mid-14th century a person cast out or rejected was originally a past participle of the Middle English outcasten, from out + casten meaning to cast.
1 1250-1300.
2 Late 14th century.
3 1590-1600 as a noun use of a verb phrase.
1876, in an Indian context, one who has been expelled from his caste.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

“Indian Beggar[s] on a Cart”, 1930s, is courtesy of Old Indian Photos, and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.