What word is similar to inculcation, but would be understood by ordinary people?

When I asked about inculcation, people didn't understand the word. Psychologists, however, use it.

  • Can you provide the entire example sentence which uses this word?
    – ChrisW
    Sep 22, 2014 at 22:00
  • 1
    This is not off-topic as the close voter suggests. It is a perfectly legitimate single word request. It needs editing, though. I've approved an edit, someone else needs to chime in on it. Sep 22, 2014 at 22:27
  • I don't think the question is off-topic, but I find it patronising. I consider myself an 'ordinary person', but I understand perfectly what 'inculcation' means. It might be more appropriate to close it for the reason that suggested answers can be found in commonly available sources.
    – WS2
    Sep 24, 2014 at 17:30
  • Have you tried a thesaurus? Oct 23, 2014 at 3:53
  • 2
    By “ordinary”, do you mean uneducated?
    – tchrist
    Oct 23, 2014 at 3:57

5 Answers 5


Cyberherbalist gave one usage:

1) indoctrinate.

But there is also:

2) instill, which might be the more common.

The former has a somewhat negative connotation, the latter, more positive. For instance:

The father instilled in his sons a sense of quality and precision work worthy of his craftsmanship.

  • Well, yes, indoctrinate does have a somewhat negative connotation. This is why I suggested it in the place of inculcation, which likewise has a negative connotation. Sep 22, 2014 at 23:50
  • @Cyberherbalist - understood. I'll take your word for the negative connotation for inculcation --- a word I've probably spoken all of three times in half a century :)) Sep 22, 2014 at 23:53
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    So, you're an old guy, just like me! I can't remember speaking this word, ever, until today. I'm sure I've done it, it was just too long ago, and probably when I was reading something out loud. I can see why he needed an alternative. And I love the word instill -- it is so very calm and gentle! Sep 22, 2014 at 23:58
  • @Cyberherbalist looks like we'd best install a sense of proper English in the youth of today, eh? :)) Sep 23, 2014 at 0:20

Instilling values or attitudes through persistent effort is inculcation. I'd suggest "influence" as a substitute for inculcate.

Indoctrination suggests you are teaching an agenda. Rote suggests one is repeating the same lessons over again and again.

However, my mother inculcated a love of reading by reading to me every day until I could read on my own, by letting me see her read for pleasure and discussing books withers, and by taking me to the library with her, and getting me my own card when I was old enough to read.

She inculcated an entrepreneurial spirit in me by letting me run, on shares, the tomato stand in front of the farm, and having a collection of Horatio Alger, Jr. books where I was sure to discover them.

My father inculcated moral values in me by letting me see him make repairs at the church, the grange hall, etc., without anyone asking him to, and without telling anyone he'd done it. He let me see how he treated my mother.

Almost everything we do inculcates our values in those around us, and they inculcate their values in us. Indoctrination and rote exercises are weak by comparison.

  • I suppose inculcate could have a positive connotation, but the dictionary definitions I've seen tend to emphasize the negative connotations. @HowardPautz's instill suggests a more positive and gentle aspect, in and of itself, of training or teaching. And "rote" has its place even among instillation: memorization of poems; learning scripts word-for-word as an actor in a play. Sep 22, 2014 at 23:55

Others have mentioned instilling, which is good.

Another synonym is ingraining: Teaching or impressing upon the mind by frequent instruction or repetition. (WordWeb)

  • If instilling was good, why didn't you upvote? Good answers get upvoted, right?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 23, 2014 at 5:12
  • @Mari-LouA: OK, done. But two answers cited instill / instilling, at just about the same time. And one of those also mentioned indoctrinate, which is mentioned by still another answer - so what does voting for 1 or 2 or 3 of them really mean? And the OP seemed to be asking for a noun, so should instill count? Not a big deal. And no, not all answers that say something good get upvoted, especially if they also say something not so good. Great answers should get upvoted. Haven't seen any great answers to this question yet.
    – Drew
    Oct 23, 2014 at 15:44

I would submit "rote" as a viable alternative.

It does have slightly negative connotations, however.

Edit: I omitted the "by" to get to a single word.

  • "rote" is a type of learning. It means word-for-word memorization of something. Although inculcation or indoctrination might include "rote learning", so might genuine education for certain themes. You could learn multiplication tables by "rote memorization", for example, but nobody would call that "inculcation" or "indoctrination." Sep 22, 2014 at 22:25

The word you're looking for is "indoctrination".

I would not be surprised if psychologists prefer "inculcation" precisely because it is not used by the common mass of people.

Both words have the pejorative sense of forcing a viewpoint upon someone, but "indoctrination" would be understood correctly by the majority of English speakers.

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