Ask Difference

Customs vs. Traditions — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Urooj Arif — Published on February 16, 2024
Customs are established practices followed by people in a society, whereas traditions are beliefs or behaviors passed down within a culture over generations.
Customs vs. Traditions — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Customs and Traditions


Key Differences

Customs refer to the common practices and norms that are observed by a community or society. These are the everyday habits and rituals that are considered standard within a particular group. Traditions, on the other hand, are the inherited ways of thinking, acting, or doing something, which have been passed down from generation to generation. They carry historical significance and are often linked to cultural heritage.
While customs can change more readily with new influences and conditions, traditions tend to be more enduring, often preserved over long periods despite changes in society. Customs are about current practices that organize daily life, whereas traditions connect individuals with their past, providing a sense of continuity and identity.
Customs are often enforced by social pressure and the desire for conformity within a group, making them somewhat obligatory. Traditions, while also influential, are embraced more out of respect for historical and cultural significance, making participation more voluntary. This distinction highlights the different roles customs and traditions play in shaping social behavior and norms.
Both customs and traditions serve to unify groups, create a sense of belonging, and define the identity of communities. However, customs are usually more concerned with social order and practical aspects of daily life, while traditions emphasize the preservation of cultural values and the connection to one's ancestry.
Customs and traditions both contribute to the cultural fabric of a society, but they do so in different ways. Customs provide the framework for everyday interactions and social practices, whereas traditions offer a link to the past and contribute to a collective memory, enriching cultural identity and cohesion.

Comparison Chart


Established social practices
Beliefs or behaviors passed down

Change over time

More adaptable to change
More resistant to change


Social pressure
Voluntary adherence

Connection to past

Less emphasis on historical origins
Strong link to history and heritage

Role in society

Organize daily life
Preserve cultural values

Frequency of practice

Can be daily or situational
Often linked to specific occasions


Can be specific to a community or universal
Usually specific to cultural or ethnic groups

Compare with Definitions


Conventional practices accepted by a society.
Removing your shoes before entering a home is a common custom in many cultures.


Practices passed down through generations.
Eating turkey on Thanksgiving is a long-standing American tradition.


Official policies regulating international trade.
The package was delayed at customs for inspection.


Beliefs maintained within a family or culture.
It's our family tradition to go hiking on the first day of spring.


Everyday habits specific to a group.
In our office, it's a custom to have coffee together at 10 a.m.


Customary stories or legends within a culture.
Storytelling is a tradition in many Native American cultures to pass down history.


A traditional practice or usual way of doing something followed by a social group or people.


Annual events celebrated historically.
Watching fireworks on the Fourth of July is a popular tradition.


The tradition or body of such practices
The respect that is by custom accorded to the king.


Rituals that signify cultural heritage.
The tradition of lighting a menorah is central to Hanukkah celebrations.


A habitual practice of a person
My custom of reading a little before sleep.


The passing down of elements of a culture from generation to generation, especially by oral communication
Cultural practices that are preserved by tradition.


Habitual manner or practice
I am not by custom a coffee drinker.


A mode of thought or behavior followed by a people continuously from generation to generation; a custom or usage
The traditions of Tibetan Buddhism.


(Law) A common tradition or usage so long established that it has the force or validity of law.


A set of such customs and usages viewed as a coherent body of precedents influencing the present
Followed family tradition in dress and manners.


Habitual patronage, as of a store
Tried to obtain the custom of the wealthiest shoppers.


A precept or a body of precepts that are not written in the sacred book of a religion, such as the Bible, but are considered holy or true.


Duties or taxes imposed on imported and, less commonly, exported goods.


A style or method of an activity or practice, especially of artistic expression, that is recognized and sometimes imitated
Satire in the tradition of Jonathan Swift.


(used with a sing. verb) The governmental agency authorized to collect these duties.


A piece of folklore
"a popular medieval tradition that identified the queen of Sheba with the Blessed Virgin Mary" (Nicholas Clapp).


(used with a sing. verb) The place where goods and baggage entering a country are inspected by this agency
Go through customs.


Plural of tradition


Tribute, service, or rent paid by a feudal tenant to a lord.


Made to order
Custom suits.


Specializing in the making or selling of made-to-order goods
A custom tailor.


(in the plural) The duties or taxes imposed on imported or exported goods.
Customs of £200 were due on all the wine we took back from France.


The government department or agency that is authorised to collect the taxes imposed on imported goods.
Customs stopped us in the airport for an inspection.


The process of going through customs checks at a border checkpoint.
They usually don't care about customs, but she was clearly planning on selling most of it.


The location at a border checkpoint where customs checks are carried out.


Plural of custom


Money collected under a tariff; a duty imposed on imported goods.


The government department administering the collection of import tariffs. Used with as singular verb.


That area within an airport, sea port, or other border station where freight or the baggage of travellers is checked for dutiable materials or contraband; as, it took an hour to get through customs.


Money collected under a tariff


Rituals associated with life events.
It is a custom to throw rice at weddings as a symbol of prosperity.


Social norms guiding behavior.
Greeting with a handshake is a customary practice in many business settings.

Common Curiosities

Can traditions change over time?

While traditions are more resistant to change, they can evolve as societies and cultural values shift.

What defines a custom?

A custom is a standard practice or behavior that is considered typical within a particular group or society.

What makes a tradition?

A tradition is a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance from the past.

Why are traditions important?

Traditions help preserve a culture’s history and identity, offering a sense of belonging and continuity.

How do customs differ from traditions?

Customs are everyday practices influenced by current social norms, while traditions are more deeply rooted in historical and cultural significance.

Are customs universal?

Some customs may be widely practiced across different cultures, but many are specific to particular societies.

Can customs become traditions?

Yes, customs can evolve into traditions if they gain historical significance and are passed down through generations.

Are traditions always related to cultural practices?

While often cultural, traditions can also be specific to families, organizations, or other groups, not just broader cultures.

What happens when traditions fade?

The fading of traditions can lead to cultural loss and a weakening of community bonds and identity.

How are customs enforced?

Customs are often enforced through social pressure and the desire for conformity within a community.

How do people learn about traditions?

Traditions are typically learned through family, community engagement, and participation in cultural practices.

Do customs have legal backing?

Some customs may be reinforced by law or policy, especially those related to trade, but many operate through social consensus.

What role do traditions play in society?

Traditions strengthen communal ties, ensure cultural heritage is passed on, and enrich the cultural fabric of a society.

Can individuals reject customs?

Yes, individuals can choose not to follow certain customs, though this may vary by the custom's significance and societal pressure.

How can customs and traditions be preserved?

Preservation efforts include education, cultural programs, community activities, and family practices that reinforce their importance.

Share Your Discovery

Share via Social Media
Embed This Content
Embed Code
Share Directly via Messenger
Previous Comparison
Aperture vs. Shutter Speed
Next Comparison

Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.

Popular Comparisons

Trending Comparisons

New Comparisons

Trending Terms