Home > H Words > Hinduism


Definition of Hinduism

(noun) A diverse belief system in South Asia, principally in India and Nepal, with distinct religious and philosophical beliefs that underlie societal and cultural norms such as the belief in reincarnation, a caste system, and the personification of a supreme being that takes numerous forms.

Examples of Hinduism

Hinduism Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: hin·du·ism

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /hIn-doo-i-zuhm/
  • British English – /hIn-doo-i-zuhm/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /ˈhɪnduˌɪzəm/
  • British English – /ˈhɪnduːɪz(ə)m/

Usage Notes

  • Hinduism describes a wide range of beliefs, rituals, and values and is a “noun of convenience, or construction, encompassing, whether actively or retrospectively, the religious and cultural traditions  . . . of those identified by themselves or others as ‘Hindus'” (Johnson 2009).
  • The sacred writings of Hinduism include Bhagavad Gita and the Vedas.
  • A type of belief system and cosmogony.
  • Variant spelling: Hindooism
  • A (noun) Hindu practices Hinduism.

Related Quotations

  • “If we accept that the social forms that religion takes in contemporary global society are to a large degree peculiar to that context, then it follows that assuming these forms to be historically universal would create even more confusion. This sort of projection does in fact take place quite frequently, in particular among academic and theological observers. Academics, in spite of protests to the contrary, regularly assume that so-called world religions such as Hinduism and Daoism have a long history and have existed as such at least since the first millennium B.C.E. They are not alone, however. Often theological observers from within these religions insist on similar observations” (Beyer 2003:47).
  • “Hinduism describes a reality which is repeatedly made and unmade, as the god Brahma sleeps and wakes, bringing the universe into existence in his dreams. Each cycle of creation undergoes a decline from its most perfect initial stage to its eventual destruction and replacement with a new, pristine godly dream. The present age, the Kali yuga or age of Kali (the goddess of death) is the end stage of the most recent creation. It is distinguished as a time of troubles, of power and injustice, and of the breakdown of social institutions and the loss of belief. According to one version, as the end of the cycle approaches, the Earth becomes an uninhabitable wasteland, killing off most of the beings who once lived on it. Then the god Vishnu himself completes the devastation, drinking up the last waters and allowing seven suns to scorch the desiccated surface. After that, torrential rains extinguish the fires but inundate the land with floods, which is finally ripped by high winds. Only after all life is crushed and all energy expended does Vishnu again take the form of Brahma and bring a new cycle of creation into existence, which in turn will pass through thousands of ages until it too ends harshly” (Eller 2007:51–52).
  • “Hinduism, unlike many other religions such as Judaeo-Christian and Islamic traditions, may be considered more a way of life because of its greater reliance on family traditions as opposed to a single unified doctrine, theology, institution and so on. The social reality does not always reflect what appears in the texts. However, Religionist scholars and Indologists generally relied far too heavily on the classical materials that are transmitted through Brahmanical texts. In discussing Hindu society, therefore, they tended to pay greater attention to notions of Varna and the fourfold division of Hindu society as mentioned in the Rig Veda Samhita and the Manusmriti (Laws of Manu)” (Penumala 2006:407).

Additional Information

Related Terms


Beyer, Peter. 2003. “Social Forms of Religion and Religions in Contemporary Global Society.” Pp. 45–60 in Handbook of the Sociology of Religion, edited by M. Dillon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Eller, Jack David. 2007. Introducing Anthropology of Religion: Culture to the Ultimate. London: Routledge.

Johnson, W. J. “Hinduism.” In A Dictionary of Hinduism. Oxford University Press, 2009.

Kumar, Pratap Penumala. 2010. “Sociology of Hinduism.” Pp. 407–30 in The New Blackwell Companion to the Sociology of Religion, edited by B. S. Turner. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Works Consulted

Abercrombie, Nicholas, Stephen Hill, and Bryan Turner. 2006. The Penguin Dictionary of Sociology. 5th ed. London: Penguin.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. 5th ed. 2011. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Blakemore, Colin, and Sheila Jennett. 2003. The Oxford Companion to the Body. New York: Oxford University Press.

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

Castree, Noel, Rob Kitchin, and Alisdair Rogers. 2013. A Dictionary of Human Geography. New York: Oxford University Press.

Collins English Dictionary: Complete and Unabridged. 6th ed. 2003. Glasgow, Scotland: Collins.

Ebaugh, Helen Rose Fuchs. 2006. Handbook of Religion and Social Institutions. New York: Springer.

Farlex. (N.d.) TheFreeDictionary.com: Dictionary, Encyclopedia and Thesaurus. Farlex. (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/).

Fenn, Richard K., ed. 2001. The Blackwell companion to Sociology of Religion. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

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.

Macionis, John, and Kenneth Plummer. 2012. Sociology: A Global Introduction. 4th ed. Harlow, England: Pearson Education.

Macmillan. (N.d.) Macmillan Dictionary. (https://www.macmillandictionary.com/).

Marsh, Ian, and Mike Keating, eds. 2006. Sociology: Making Sense of Society. 3rd ed. Harlow, England: Pearson Education.

Merriam-Webster. (N.d.) Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/).

Oxford University Press. (N.d.) Oxford Dictionaries. (https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/).

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (https://en.wikipedia.org/).

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wiktionary, The Free Dictionary. Wikimedia Foundation. (http://en.wiktionary.org).

Cite the Definition of Hinduism

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “Hinduism.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved July 14, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/hinduism/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

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

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

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “Hinduism.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed July 14, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/hinduism/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“Hinduism.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 14 Jul. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/hinduism/>.