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A custom is a norm of behavior determined by moral values , rules or social norms , created in a certain group or community and binding for the individual . Mostly it is based on tradition and custom (= "Usus"). A custom, however, is more than a habit; because there are also bad habits (sometimes called "bad habits").

Custom is also the colloquial short form of the moral police .

"Customs" and "Customs"

The custom (Latin mos ) in the singular is understood as the totality of moral values ​​and rules ( morality , morality, decency , decency ) in the sense of a moral authority ( heteronomy ). Outward behavior in society is moral, although inwardly one can disagree. It then says: something is a custom or the custom wants or demands something. In this sense, the motto is the custom and costume of the old / we want to preserve.

In the plural, morals (Latin mores ) mean individual norms, e.g. B. in the form of courtesy , the table custom (s) or the court custom (s). Sion have cultural respect, that is, they are usually in reference to a geographical-temporal space (cf. saying "Other countries, other customs!", English. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. ). They can therefore appear strange or strange to an outsider.

Legal meaning

The word custom is used as a legal term and then has a legal meaning. In Article 2, Paragraph 1 of the Basic Law, the German Basic Law refers to the moral law , which must be interpreted as an indefinite legal term .

In German civil law , for example, § 138 BGB regulates what can be understood as an "immoral legal transaction". The law speaks of a "violation of morality ". § 817 BGB regulates how business that offends against common decency must be dealt with. Traffic custom is the umbrella term for the customs that are common in right-hand traffic .

Customs and customs were clearly distinguished in the 19th century. Custom was seen as a link between the purely individual way of life and custom. In contrast to custom, custom was to be seen as a marked event in the course of life and the year. He had his seat in the immediate family circle, in a limited group or in the wider circle of a community.


Less compelling, often not even discussed social customs are also referred to as custom . This also includes human manners , behavior and rules (e.g. manners).

In rural areas it is understood to mean the traditional way of life, which, however, is constantly changing in its development. The customs are adapted to the constantly changing conditions and needs. This shows z. B. the regionally very different orientation of the fair, of traditional fires or very special traditional trades.

Morals can be old or new, good or bad, beautiful or rough / wild, strict / rigid or loose, etc. Morals are respected, preserved or nurtured, kept, injured or broken, violated, obeyed or submitted to them. Over time, they are loosened or tightened. They are all subject to social change .

As a result, you can also immoral behavior. Insofar as there are people who watch over the customs that are "ruling" permanently or as fashion , these are colloquially referred to as moral watchers. There is also a criminal investigation department that deals with moral offenses . This used to be and is still colloquially called "die Sitte" ( moral police ).

In the subjective judgment of another person this can go so far that one accuses someone of having no morals (immorality). The behavior itself is then perceived as a bad habit. From this perception one speaks of the decay of morals. In the 17th century, after the Magdeburg massacre, the term Magdeburgisation was coined as a synonym for the brutalization of customs (especially in wars).

Political correctness can be defined as adherence to verbal customs.

Differences in the customs of different peoples are the basis of national clichés.

The Internet, search engines (e.g. Google), Facebook, Twitter and the ubiquity of cell phone cameras and digital cameras have pushed the boundaries between the private and the public. The author, columnist and essayist Harald Martenstein wrote in 2012:

“Every halfway interesting person and every everyday action [is] an object of almost uninterrupted observation today… not least because of the reader reporters, but also because of the thousands of possibilities offered by the Internet and because of the cell phone cameras. But above all because people are curious beings and because curiosity , like any need, can be used economically in a commodity society. ... Nobody is safe from the virtue watch , not the young person with age-typical thirst for experience, not the husband who has gone astray, not even the young mother. "

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Customs  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. cf. Ferdinand Tönnies : Custom. 1908
  2. ^ Meyers Konversationslexikon, Leipzig and Vienna 1897, keyword custom
  3. Interview with Regina Bendix on the history of customs, custom and ritual yesterday and today , November 2013.
  4. The Terror of Virtue. - You souldn't smoke. You shouldn't have any secrets. You should do what everyone is doing. And remember: you are being watched! How the belief in the imposed good creates a modern dictatorship with the help of laws, ordinances and media surveillance. - Die Zeit, June 16, 2012.