Ask Difference

Subculture vs. Counterculture — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on September 19, 2023
Subculture refers to a group within a larger culture that has its own distinct practices and beliefs but generally aligns with dominant culture. Counterculture, on the other hand, explicitly opposes or rejects the norms and values of the dominant culture.
Subculture vs. Counterculture — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Subculture and Counterculture


Key Differences

Subculture is a term that refers to a subset of a larger culture, distinguished by particular customs, values, or interests. These traits may differ from those of the broader culture but are generally not in direct opposition to it. Counterculture, conversely, represents a social group that actively opposes the predominant cultural norms and values, seeking to bring about change or establish an alternative system.
Both Subculture and Counterculture can be manifested in various forms such as music, fashion, language, and social practices. While Subculture may engage in divergent activities, they often do so without challenging the overall structure of the dominant culture. Counterculture, however, exists almost exclusively to contest and subvert the larger culture's dominant ideologies.
The grammatical usage of the terms Subculture and Counterculture is fairly straightforward; both are primarily used as nouns. While "subcultural" can serve as an adjective, "countercultural" is the adjective form of Counterculture. Each term serves as a descriptor for groups, phenomena, or activities that fall under their respective definitions.
Subculture often evolves naturally within a larger culture and may even be endorsed or celebrated by the dominant culture. Examples include fan clubs or localized traditions. Counterculture develops as a form of protest or as an alternative to mainstream culture, often challenging the status quo. Examples are the hippie movement of the 1960s or punk rock in the late 20th century.

Comparison Chart

Type of Word

Noun, Adjective ("subcultural")
Noun, Adjective ("countercultural")

Relation to Dominant Culture

Generally aligned


Specialized interest within mainstream
Opposition to mainstream

Social Goal

Change or rejection of norms


Fan clubs, craft beer enthusiasts
Hippies, punk rockers

Compare with Definitions


A group distinguished by shared interests or practices within a larger culture.
The skateboarding subculture has its own lingo and style.


A social group that actively opposes mainstream cultural values.
The hippie counterculture protested against traditional societal norms.


A subset within a main culture having unique customs or viewpoints.
The vegan subculture prioritizes animal welfare.


A movement that seeks to change dominant social norms or practices.
The feminist counterculture challenges traditional gender roles.


A segment of society that forms a community based on specific interests or activities.
The tech subculture is passionate about innovation.


A community that rejects and contradicts the prevailing social norms.
The punk counterculture rebelled against consumerism.


A specialized faction within a broader cultural group.
The hip-hop subculture has influenced mainstream fashion.


A lifestyle that is in opposition to the dominant culture.
Living off-the-grid can be seen as a counterculture.


A cultural subgroup differentiated by status, interests, or ethnicity.
The immigrant subculture blends traditions from multiple countries.


A collective action against mainstream ideology or practices.
The anti-war counterculture of the 60s sought peace over conflict.


A subculture is a group of people within a culture that differentiates itself from the parent culture to which it belongs, often maintaining some of its founding principles. Subcultures develop their own norms and values regarding cultural, political, and sexual matters.


A counterculture is a culture whose values and norms of behavior differ substantially from those of mainstream society, sometimes diametrically opposed to mainstream cultural mores. A countercultural movement expresses the ethos and aspirations of a specific population during a well-defined era.


A cultural subgroup differentiated by status, ethnic background, residence, religion, or other factors that functionally unify the group and act collectively on each member.


A culture, especially of young people, with values or lifestyles in opposition to those of the established culture.


One culture of microorganisms derived from another.


Any culture whose values and lifestyles are opposed to those of the established mainstream culture, especially to western culture.


A portion of a culture distinguished by its customs or other features, often in contrast to the larger mainstream culture.
The goth subculture has its own mode of dress, and it has a characteristic musical style.


A culture with lifestyles and values opposed to those of the established culture


(biology) A culture made by transferring microorganisms from a previous culture to a fresh growth medium


(biology) To transfer (microorganisms) to a fresh growth medium in order to start a new culture


A social group within a national culture that has distinctive patterns of behavior and beliefs

Common Curiosities

Can a Subculture become a Counterculture?

Yes, a Subculture can evolve into a Counterculture if it starts opposing mainstream culture.

What is a Subculture?

A Subculture is a smaller group within a larger culture, distinguished by specific interests or practices.

Can a Counterculture become mainstream?

Yes, elements of a Counterculture can be adopted by the mainstream over time.

Is every Subculture also a Counterculture?

No, Subcultures may exist peacefully within a dominant culture, whereas Countercultures oppose it.

What is a Counterculture?

A Counterculture is a group that opposes the prevailing cultural norms and values.

How do Countercultures form?

Countercultures form as a reaction against the dominant culture's norms or values.

Are Subcultures always smaller than the dominant culture?

Generally yes, Subcultures are subsets of a larger culture.

Can you belong to multiple Subcultures?

Yes, individuals can belong to more than one Subculture.

How do Subcultures form?

Subcultures often form around shared interests, values, or activities.

Can a Counterculture be larger than a Subculture?

Not necessarily; both can vary in size but are usually smaller than the dominant culture.

Do Countercultures have leaders?

Not always, but they can have influential figures.

Are Subcultures specific to certain countries?

No, Subcultures can exist in multiple cultures and countries.

Are Countercultures always political?

No, but they often involve opposition to mainstream social or cultural norms.

Do Subcultures have their own language?

Sometimes, Subcultures may have specialized jargon or slang.

Can you belong to a Subculture and a Counterculture simultaneously?

Yes, it's possible to be part of both a Subculture and a Counterculture.

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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.

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