Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization, Western lifestyle or European civilization, is a term used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, belief systems, political systems, and specific artifacts and technologies that have some origin or association with Europe. The term has come to apply to countries whose history is strongly marked by European immigration, such as the countries of the Americas and Australasia, and is not restricted to the continent of Europe.
Western culture is characterized by a host of artistic, philosophic, literary, and legal themes and traditions; the heritage of Celtic, Germanic, Hellenic, and Latin ethnic and linguistic groups, as well as Christianity, which played an important part in the shaping of Western civilization since at least the 4th century. Also contributing to Western thought, in ancient times and then in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance onwards, a tradition of rationalism in various spheres of life, developed by Hellenistic philosophy, Scholasticism, humanism, the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment. Values of Western culture have, throughout history, been derived from political thought, widespread employment of rational argument favouring freethought, assimilation of human rights, the need for equality, and democracy.