Outcast (person)

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For other uses, see outcast (disambiguation).

An outcast is someone who is rejected or 'cast out', as from home or society,[1] or in some way excluded, looked down upon, or ignored. In common English speech an outcast may be anyone who doesn't fit in with normal society, which can contribute to a sense of isolation.

An alternative and newer sense of the term "outcast" or "outcaste" has its roots in the now outlawed Indian caste system, a form of social stratification based entirely on a person's birth family (usually paternal). The family a person is born into is the caste they will belong to for their life; with the only exception being marriage, in which case the woman will move up or down depending upon the caste of the man's family. Outside of the caste system are people considered not to belong to any caste; either criminals or socially stigmatized. These people are known as outcasts. The people occupying the caste system in India believed in reincarnation, with a person's caste or status being based upon the way you lived your previous life. So being born into a specific caste was an indicator of how your previous life was lived.


In Ancient Greece the Athenians had a procedure known as "ostracism" in which all citizens could write a person's name on a shard of broken pottery (called ostraka) and later place it in a large container in a public location. If an individual were to have his or her name written a sufficient number of times the would be subject to "ostracism" and banished from the city for ten years. This was normally practiced against individuals who had behaved in a manner that was in some way offensive to the community.


To be exiled is to be away from one's home (i.e. city, state or country), while either being explicitly refused permission to return and/or being threatened with imprisonment or death upon return. It can be a form of punishment. Exile can also be a self-imposed departure from one's homeland. Self-exile is often seen to be in some way a protest by the person that claims it, to avoid persecution or legal matters ( tax,criminal allegations, or otherwise), through shame or repentance, or perhaps to isolate oneself in order to devote time to a particular thing. Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights[2] states that, "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile."

Description of experiences of being outcasts[edit]

On the Indian sub continent the word pariah comes from the Tamil word parai, literally meaning "to say or tell something". In the olden days, paraiyar announced public messages. They would draw the attention of people around them by beating their animal skin drums and then make public announcements. They were mostly drawn from the lowest strata of society or caste. Hence the word pariah has become a general word for a low caste person. People will often avoid contact or communication with an outcast, and sometimes even restrain themselves from going near them. Generally, in these extreme cases, any individual who has sympathy for an outcast, and tries to befriend or socialize with them, may cause themselves to lose popularity, or even become an outcast themselves. Usually, a person is an outcast because they are unpopular, that is, they are generally disliked, or even hated by other people and have a low social status because of it. However, sometimes a person is an outcast because they are shy or feared by other people, and therefore rejected (as other people may try to avoid them). In severe cases, a social outcast may become depressed, as they may endure much persecution and discrimination from other people - a homeless wanderer; vagabond.[1]

In the Bible[edit]

In the Old Testament, Ishmael, the son of Abraham, was cast out after the birth of Isaac, his half-brother, who is considered the forebear of the Israelites. Genesis 16:12 of the Bible prophesies Ishmael's life as an outcast: "And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren."[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Outcast | Define Outcast at Dictionary.com". Dictionary.reference.com. Retrieved 2015-02-27. 
  2. ^ "Article 9". Ichrp.org. Retrieved 2015-02-27. 
  3. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Etymonline.com. Retrieved 2015-02-27. 

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