“Culture in all its early uses was a noun of process: the tending of something, basically crops or…”

“Culture in all its early uses was a noun of process: the tending of something, basically crops or animals. The subsidiary coulter — ploughshare, had travelled by a different linguistic route, from culter, L — ploughshare, culter, OE, to the variant English spellings culter, colter, coulter and as late as eCl7 culture (Webster, Duchess of Malfi, III, ii: ‘hot burning cultures). This provided a further basis for the important next stage of meaning, by metaphor. From eCl6 the tending of natural growth was extended to process of human development, and this, alongside the original meaning in husbandry, was the main sense until lC18 and eC19. Thus More: ‘to the culture and profit of their minds; Bacon: ‘the culture and manurance of minds (1605); Hobbes: ‘a culture of their minds (1651); Johnson: ‘she neglected the culture of her understanding (1759). At various points in this development two crucial changes occurred: first, a degree of habituation to the metaphor, which made the sense of human tending direct; second, an extension of particular processes to a general process, which the word could abstractly carry.”

Raymond Williams, Keywords