cul·​mi·​nate | \ ˈkəl-mə-ˌnāt \
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


cap (off), climax, crown

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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

The abuse lasted five or six years and culminated one night at the country house when Bishop Jenik got into bed with him, Mr. Meenan said. Melanie Grayce West, WSJ, "Parishioners Express Support for Priest Accused of Sexual Misconduct," 5 Nov. 2018 The tweets will continue into Saturday morning, chronicling the last hours of her life and culminating at about the same time of day that Newport police detectives launched a homicide investigation into her death more than four decades ago. Hannah Fry,, "Newport police use Twitter to tell story of 11-year-old girl’s disappearance and death in 1973," 6 July 2018 The first year of the evolution culminated at WrestleMania 32 in Arlington, Texas, when Banks, Charlotte and Lynch had the best women's match in WrestleMania history in front of more than 100,000 fans. Gene Guillot,, "The women of WWE have come a long way. Next stop: WrestleMania," 5 Apr. 2018 At the same time, NASA plans to partner with private companies to create a series of lunar landers, eventually culminating in ones that can carry humans to the Moon’s surface. Loren Grush, The Verge, "NASA selects nine companies that will vie to put small landers on the Moon," 29 Nov. 2018 The culminating daytime ceremony typically takes place in the late morning or early afternoon, followed by a reception and dinner in the evening. Noor Brara, Vogue, "Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas Begin Their Pre-Wedding Ceremonies—Here’s What Could Be Next," 28 Nov. 2018 Royal photographer Chris Jackson was granted immense access to Charles over the last year, culminating in a photo series and profile for the Sunday Times. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "The Ultimate Guide to the Royal Family," 18 Nov. 2018 The culminating event of the season is the national championships, hosted by USSSA every March. Jenny Mccoy, SELF, "What Is Snowshoe Racing? A Look Inside the Niche and Challenging Winter Sport," 17 Oct. 2018 Specifically, Western participants expected widened eyes and gaping mouths, while East Asian participant’s ideas culminated in a slight, tight-lipped smile. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "How orgasm faces differ between people from Eastern and Western cultures," 9 Oct. 2018

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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Statistics for culminate

Last Updated

9 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for culminate

The first known use of culminate was in 1647

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More Definitions for culminate



English Language Learners Definition of culminate

: to reach the end or the final result of something

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


cul·​mi·​nate | \ ˈkəl-mə-ˌnāt \
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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