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What is the difference between Custom and Convention. For example:

  • It is a custom in India to give money as a blessing on marriages.
  • It is conventional in many societies that strangers being introduced handshakes.

The Wikipedia definition for a convention is A convention is a set of agreed, stipulated, or generally accepted standards, norms, social norms, or criteria, often taking the form of a custom. So can we use these words interchangeably? If so, can you provide some examples?

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A custom is about habit, something that happens a lot. A convention is about agreement, that it is accepted, formally or informally. Obviously many things are both customary and conventional.

You might say:

  • He was conventional in many things, but it was his custom to have breakfast at noon.
  • The custom was to tip a waiter, and he strictly followed the convention out of fear of being considered miserly.

OED:

convention n II. Agreement, conventional usage.
custom A n 1 a. A mode of behaviour or procedure which is widely practised and accepted (and typically long established) in a particular society, community, etc.; a convention; a tradition.

Note that both words have other meanings as well.

  • ‘It is a convetion widely accepted to stand on arrival of judge in courtroom.' or 'It is a custom to stand on arrival of judge in courtroom to show respect.' Which would be more effective and correct? – Sudhir Sharma May 14 at 10:55
  • In most situations you'd say "It is the custom to stand on arrival of the judge." or "It is customary to stand ..." – jonathanjo May 14 at 10:58
  • @jonathanjo..thanks for the answer. I think it is better to stick with customary. In most cases I think customary can take place of conventional. True? – Sudhir Sharma May 14 at 11:00
  • @Sud "conventional" emphasizes the agreement aspect. A custom can be personal, a convention is always shared. But most customs are in fact shared, so often there is little differene in meaning. "Conventional" is oftne used to describe a person (or a situation) who is normal, even overly normal, the opposite of eccentric, It may imply "dull" or "conformist". The word "customary" is not used in this way. – David Siegel Jul 10 at 0:15

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