cul·​mi·​nate | \ ˈkəl-mə-ˌnāt How to pronounce culminate (audio) \
culminated; culminating

Definition of culminate

intransitive verb

1 of a celestial body : to reach its highest altitude During the summer solstice, the sun culminates over the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere. also : to be directly overhead
2a : to rise to or form a summit … enormous waves culminated and fell with the report of thunder.— Frederick Marryat
b : to reach the highest or a climactic or decisive point Her long acting career culminated when she won the Oscar.

transitive verb

: to bring to a head or to the highest point The contract culminated weeks of negotiations.

Synonyms for culminate


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Did you know?

Culminate was first used in English in the 17th century in the field of astronomy. When a star or other heavenly body culminates, it reaches the point at which it is highest above the horizon from the vantage point of an observer on the ground. The word derives from the past participle of the Medieval Latin verb culminare, meaning "to crown," and ultimately from the Latin noun culmen, meaning "top." As something culminates it rises toward a peak. These days the word is most familiar to English speakers in its figurative usage meaning "to reach a climactic or decisive point."

Examples of culminate in a Sentence

A bitter feud culminated months of tension. culminated the school year with a trip to New York
Recent Examples on the Web His Dolphins will hold the first of 10 workouts over the next few weeks that will culminate with a spring game May 13 against Haralson County (Ga.) at Mickey Miller Blackwell Stadium. Ben Thomas |, al, 20 Apr. 2022 Scott’s proposed 2023 budget is to be released next week, kicking off a budget process that will culminate in June with consideration by Baltimore City Council. Emily Opilo, Baltimore Sun, 5 Apr. 2022 For Vinecki, it was all supposed to culminate at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang. Tom Schad, USA TODAY, 8 Feb. 2022 Divefest offer culls that culminate with a lionfish hunt and cookout. Daphne Ewing-chow, Forbes, 31 Jan. 2022 There is no underlying historical mechanism that brings us inexorably toward a liberal world order, similar to the Marxist belief that history would culminate in Communism. Francis Fukuyama, WSJ, 29 Apr. 2022 Workouts began Monday and culminate with a spring showcase for college coaches on May 11 followed by a spring scrimmage on May 19 that will be open to the public. Los Angeles Times, 25 Apr. 2022 March Madness is narrowing down to the top teams, and will culminate with the Final Four teams facing off in the women’s and men’s tournaments on April 1 and April 2, respectively. New York Times, 1 Apr. 2022 The act of protest will culminate next Tuesday with a general walkout by LGBTQ workers and their supporters at Disney worksites in California, Florida and elsewhere, the group of Disney employees said this week on their website. NBC News, 17 Mar. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'culminate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of culminate

1647, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

History and Etymology for culminate

Medieval Latin culminatus, past participle of culminare, from Late Latin, to crown, from Latin culmin-, culmen top — more at hill

Learn More About culminate

Time Traveler for culminate

Time Traveler

The first known use of culminate was in 1647

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near culminate




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for culminate

Last Updated

15 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Culminate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for culminate


cul·​mi·​nate | \ ˈkəl-mə-ˌnāt How to pronounce culminate (audio) \
culminated; culminating

Kids Definition of culminate

: to reach the end or the final result of Her campaign culminated with a victory.

More from Merriam-Webster on culminate

Nglish: Translation of culminate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of culminate for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Name That Food

  • a-light
  • Name these cookies!
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!