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

intransitive verb

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
: to rise to or form a summit
… enormous waves culminated and fell with the report of thunder.Frederick Marryat
: 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.

Did you know?

When a star or other heavenly body culminates, it reaches its highest point above the horizon from the vantage point of an observer on the ground. Culminate was drawn from Medieval Latin culminare, meaning "to crown," specifically for this astronomical application. Its ultimate root is Latin culmen, meaning "top." Today, the word’s typical context is less lofty: it can mean “to reach a climactic point,” as in “a long career culminating in a prestigious award,” but it can also simply mean "to reach the end of something,” as in “a sentence culminating in a period.”

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 The 57-year-old’s colorful past fueled much of the drama in RHONJ‘s first season, culminating in a tense finale dinner that saw Giudice famously flipping a table in anger. Angel Saunders, Peoplemag, 20 Sep. 2023 Violence escalated, culminating in the conflagration of 2003–5, which cost the lives of more than 300,000 people. Alex De Waal, Foreign Affairs, 18 Sep. 2023 Tensions rose on that tour, culminating in a backstage fight after a show in Baltimore. Daniel Kohn, Spin, 18 Sep. 2023 In conventional society of the time, hosts and guests at a country house would change their clothes several times a day, culminating in a formal outfit for dinner. Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker, 18 Sep. 2023 Guests experienced a host of performances from leaders across the entertainment world, culminating with a live runway show with models wearing highlights from the fall 2023 collections. Vogue, 15 Sep. 2023 Four teams of judges examined those factors, culminating in a rightmost column average that has the word SCORE in literal capital letters and bold font. Andy Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, 15 Sep. 2023 For at least the first hour, series writer Steven Knight (Peaky Blinders, FX’s A Christmas Carol) maintains the book’s two parallel narratives, which go backward and forward in time culminating in the battle of Saint-Malo in August of 1944. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 10 Sep. 2023 Taking 4 to 5½ hours roundtrip, the train winds up the slopes of the Presidential Range, culminating in a passage over Crawford Notch. Patricia Harris and David Lyon,, 7 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'culminate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1647, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of culminate was in 1647


Dictionary Entries Near culminate

Cite this Entry

“Culminate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


cul·​mi·​nate ˈkəl-mə-ˌnāt How to pronounce culminate (audio)
culminated; culminating
: to reach the highest point

More from Merriam-Webster on culminate

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