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Definition of Counterculture

(noun) A culture within a larger culture that deliberately challenges or rejects the dominant culture’s behaviors, beliefs, lifestyle, norms, and values.

Examples of Counterculture

Etymology of Counterculture

Counterculture Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: coun·ter·cul·ture

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /kOUn-tuhr-kuhl-chuhr/
  • British English – /kOUn-tuh-kuhl-chuh/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English: /ˈkaʊntɚˌkʌltʃɚ/
  • British English: /ˈkaʊntəˌkʌltʃə/

Usage Notes

  • Plural: countercultures
  • Leaders in countercultures, particularly gurus or spiritual leaders, typically have charismatic authority and their groups can become sects.
  • A type of culture and subculture.
  • Variant spellings:
    • counter-culture
    • counter culture
  • Also called:
    • anticulture (anti-culture)
    • alternative culture (alternative-culture)
    • contraculture
  • A (noun) counterculturist or (noun) counterculturalist has a (adjective) countercultural lifestyle while practicing (noun) counterculturalism.

Related Quotation

  • “[I]t is the American young, with their underdeveloped radical background, who seem to have grasped most clearly the fact that, while such immediate emergencies as the Vietnam war, racial injustice, and hard-core poverty demand a deal of old-style politicking, the paramount struggle of our day is against a far more formidable, because far less obvious, opponent, to which I will give the name ‘the technocracy‘—a social form more highly developed in America than in any other society. The American young have been somewhat quicker to sense that in the struggle against this enemy, the conventional tactics of political resistance have only a marginal place, largely limited to meeting immediate life-and-death crises. Beyond such front-line issues, however, there lies the greater task of altering the total cultural context within which our daily politics takes place” (Roszak 1969:5–6).

Related Video

Additional Information

Related Terms


Roszak, Theodore. 1969. The Making of a Counter Culture: Reflections on the Technocratic Society and Its Youthful Opposition. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books.

Works Consulted

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Cite the Definition of Counterculture

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “counterculture.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved April 22, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/counterculture/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

counterculture. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/counterculture/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “counterculture.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed April 22, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/counterculture/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“counterculture.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 22 Apr. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/counterculture/>.