A tradition is a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past. Common examples include holidays or impractical but socially meaningful clothes ( like lawyers' wigs or military officers' spurs), but the idea has also been applied to social norms such as greetings. Traditions can persist and evolve for thousands of years—the word "tradition" itself derives from the Latin tradere literally meaning to transmit, to hand over, to give for safekeeping. While it is commonly assumed that traditions have ancient history, many traditions have been invented on purpose, whether that be political or cultural, over short periods of time. Various academic disciplines also use the word in a variety of ways.
One way tradition is used more simply, often in academic work but elsewhere also, is to indicate the quality of a piece of information being discussed. The phrase "according to tradition," or "by tradition," usually means that whatever information follows is known only by oral tradition, but is not supported, (and perhaps may be refuted) by physical documentation, by a physical artifact, or other quality evidence. For example, "According to tradition, Homer was born on Chios, but many other locales have historically claimed him as theirs." This tradition may never be proven or disproven. In another example, " King Arthur, by tradition a true British king, has inspired many well loved stories." Whether they are documented fact or not does not decrease their value as cultural history and literature.
Aside from this use in describing the quality of information, various scholarly fields define the term differently, as is needed.