1868, "of or pertaining to the raising of plants or animals," from Latin cultura "tillage, a cultivating, agriculture," figuratively "care, culture, an honoring," from past participle stem of colere "to tend, guard; to till, cultivate" (see colony). With -al (1). Figurative senses of "relating to civilizations," also "the cultivation of the mind," are attested by 1875; hence, "relating to the culture of a particular place at a particular time" (by 1909).
Cultural anthropology is attested from 1923, and cultural has been a fertile starter-word among anthropologists and sociologists, for example cultural diffusion, in use by 1912; cultural diversity, by 1935; cultural imperialism, by 1937; cultural pluralism, by 1932; cultural relativism, by 1948. China's Cultural Revolution (1966) began in 1965; the name is a shortened translation of Chinese Wuchan Jieji Wenhua Da Geming "Proletarian Cultural Great Revolution."