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.

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Synonyms for culminate


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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 In the same way that every Friday Night Lights episode didn't culminate in a football game, the same can be said of Superman & Lois in terms of the comic book thrills. Chancellor Agard,, "How Superman & Lois brings the Man of Steel mythos down to earth — and into a new era," 22 Feb. 2021 Officials at the Federal Trade Commission have been investigating Facebook for over a year, and that investigation could culminate in its own landmark litigation. Brian Fung, CNN, "The US government will sue Google for alleged anticompetitive abuses in search," 20 Oct. 2020 The week of festivities will culminate on Sunday, Jan. 31 — when the game would've otherwise been scheduled — when a handful of players will represent their conferences in an AFC-NFC showdown on EA Sports' Madden 21, the football video game. Lorenzo Reyes, USA TODAY, "NFL Pro Bowl to be played virtually in Madden 21 game featuring Deshaun Watson, Kyler Murray," 26 Jan. 2021 The fight will culminate on Jan. 6 when Congress will formally receive the results of the Electoral College that elected Democrat Joe Biden president. Paul Gattis |, al, "Mo Brooks embraces controversy as he leads longshot fight for Trump," 28 Dec. 2020 The event will culminate with a telethon Friday, Dec. 4. Marc Bona, cleveland, "Taste of the Browns, Winter Warmer Fest changes, wine sales: WTAM 5-minute food-drinks chat," 3 Dec. 2020 The 40th birthday party will culminate with a socially distant live dual fireworks display set to a choreographed soundtrack at 7 p.m. from Town Center Community Park and West Hills Park. Karen Pearlman, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Santee celebrating its 40th birthday," 30 Nov. 2020 But good on Davis, who's in the midst of a career year that should culminate with a free agency payday after Tennessee declined his fifth-year option in May. 27. Nate Davis, USA TODAY, "32 things we learned from Week 13 of the 2020 NFL season," 8 Dec. 2020 That film’s protagonist, Travis Bickle, is a paranoid Vietnam veteran whose fantasies of cleansing the streets culminate in a murder spree. Charles Bethea, The New Yorker, "The Georgia Dad Who Said That He Wanted to Kill Nancy Pelosi," 15 Jan. 2021

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for culminate

Time Traveler

The first known use of culminate was in 1647

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Statistics for culminate

Last Updated

4 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Culminate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for culminate



English Language Learners Definition of culminate

: to reach the end or the final result of something
somewhat formal : to be the end or final result of (something)


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.

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