We use these words a lot. But I feel like we use them interchangeably thus merging their meaning when we hear them and sometimes use them as synonyms for one another.  

In reality these words have a nuanced adjacent relationship to one another.  Although they are both vocabulary used around the discussion of genealogy and ancestry, let’s break down the definition of these words separately, and then their fused meaning when brought together. 

What is heritage?

Heritage is defined as a physical object that is passed down through generations.  When one hears that definition they might think of synonyms like heirloom or inheritance, which is derived from the word heritage.  It comes from the old french word heriter which meant to inherit. The basis of heritage is to acquire something that came from someone who came before you.

What is culture?

Culture is defined as “the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.” (Oxford) Culture is an amalgamation of a bunch of various aspects including food, music, customs, dance, language, hairstyles and clothing.  Culture can be both tangible and intangible. 

There are many ways heritage and culture intertwine.  For example, when your grandmother dies, she leaves you her vinyls and record player. The records could have culturally significant music.  The tangible item of the record is the heritage but the music that the record produces is a part of the culture.  

What is cultural heritage?

This is the combination of the tangible and intangible culture.  It also includes something called natural heritage.  Natural heritage is “ the sum total of the elements of biodiversity, including flora and fauna, ecosystems and geological structures”(Wikipedia). Generally speaking it is the inheritance of the land and natural resources of the Earth.  By combining the different levels of culture and the process of it continuing to live on in future generations is the core of cultural heritage. Passing on traditions, recipes and knowledge.  

Hopefully this aided you in learning the differences and similarities of culture and heritage.