As with all culturally relevant human behaviours, words are meaningful because they are shared by the members of a community. This research investigates whether 9-month-old infants understand this fundamental fact about language. Experiment 1 examined whether infants who are trained on, and subsequently habituated to, a new word–referent link expect the link to be consistent across a second speaker. Experiment 2 examined whether 9-month-old infants distinguish between behaviours that are shared across individuals (i.e. words) from those that are not (i.e. object preferences). The present findings indicate that infants as young as 9 months of age expect new word–referent links, but not object preferences, to be consistent across individuals. Thus, by 9 months, infants have identified at least one of the aspects of human behaviour that is shared across individuals within a community. The implications for children’s acquisition of language and culture are discussed.