in cultural anthropology, a cultural phenomenon that originates under one set of conditions and persists in a period when those conditions no longer obtain. The term was first employed by the British anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor in his Primitive Culture (1871). Tylor believed that seemingly irrational customs and beliefs, such as peasant superstitions, were vestiges of earlier rational practices. He distinguished between continuing customs that maintained their function or meaning and those that had lost their utility and were further thought to be poorly integrated with the rest of culture. The latter he termed survivals.
Learn more about survival with a free trial on Britannica.com.