cultural diffusion

(noun) The transmission of cultural aspects (e.g., art, language, norms, etc.) from one culture to another.


  1. Aesthetics of movies, architecture, and design following the 1922 discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb.
  2. Coffee from Ethiopia being grown in South America and consumed worldwide.
  3. McDonald’s in the Middle East.
  4. Potatoes and tomatoes from Latin America becoming staple foods and cultural markers in Ireland and Italy respectively.
  5. Spread of Hip Hop from the United States to other countries.
  6. Western adoption of Eastern cuisine.
  7. Words in the English vernacular that come from other languages, such as French, Swahili, and Arabic.

Audio Pronunciation: (cul·tur·al dif·fu·sion) 

Download Audio Pronunciation: cultural diffusion.mp3

Usage Notes:

  • Plural: cultural diffusions
  • Both material culture and nonmaterial culture transfer through cultural diffusion.
  • Also called:
    • cultural borrowing
    • diffusion

Additional Information:

Related Terms:


Works Consulted

Andersen, Margaret L., and Howard Francis Taylor. 2011. Sociology: The Essentials. 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Brinkerhoff, David, Lynn White, Suzanne Ortega, and Rose Weitz. 2011. Essentials of Sociology. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Bruce, Steve, and Steven Yearley. 2006. The SAGE Dictionary of Sociology. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Ferrante, Joan. 2011a. Seeing Sociology: An Introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Ferris, Kerry, and Jill Stein. 2010. The Real World: An Introduction to Sociology. 2nd ed. New York: Norton.

Henslin, James M. 2012. Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach. 10th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Jary, David, and Julia Jary. 2000. Collins Dictionary of Sociology. 3rd ed. Glasgow, Scotland: HarperCollins.

Kimmel, Michael S., and Amy Aronson. 2012. Sociology Now. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Oxford University Press. (N.d.) Oxford Dictionaries. (

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (


How to Cite the Definition of Cultural Diffusion

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “cultural diffusion.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved June 16, 2019 (

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

cultural diffusion. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from

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

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “cultural diffusion.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed June 16, 2019.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“cultural diffusion.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 16 Jun. 2019. <>.