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 If a majority of the House votes to impeach, the next step will be a trial in the Senate that will culminate in a vote to remove the president from office. Annalisa Merelli, Quartz, "Impeachment succeeds best when coupled with mass protests," 12 Dec. 2019 Carroll County’s wrestling teams have returned to the mat for another season that will culminate in early March at Show Place Arena, site of the annual state tournament. Pat Stoetzer,, "Winter Sports Previews: 3 things to watch for wrestling," 10 Dec. 2019 This means that its final act, in which the mob hitman Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) confronts his own mortality after a career that culminated in the murder of his famous friend Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), is strikingly original and effective. Ross Douthat, National Review, "Why Scorsese’s The Irishman Doesn’t Succeed," 5 Dec. 2019 The Saints then went on a six-play, 60-yard drive that culminated with a 20-yard touchdown run by Wiedemann for a 21-14 lead with 4:07 left in the first half. Paul Boyd, Arkansas Online, "Wiedemann, Saints go to ground vs. Scrappers," 30 Nov. 2019 Another was a series of increasingly bloody wars in Europe and elsewhere that culminated, between 1914 and 1918, in a conflict that saw humankind kill off some sixteen million of its members. Joshua Jelly-schapiro, The New Yorker, "What Are Borders For?," 27 Nov. 2019 The plans are named for NASA's three manned rocket programs in the 1960s that culminated with the 1969 moon landing. Paul Gattis |, al, "Rocket City Trash Pandas announce mini-season ticket plans," 25 Nov. 2019 For one night only, visitors can join in a procession led by Mariachi Pasión at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. that culminates in performances by Guitarras Latinas and Rascapetatiando Dance Company. Kimi Robinson, azcentral, "A Southwestern holiday tradition: Check out 8,000 luminarias at Desert Botanical Garden," 23 Nov. 2019 Her mother claims that the negative experience of losing out on her dream of fame is what set her life on a downward spiral that culminated with her October 2018 arrest. Fox News, "'American Idol's' Antonella Barba sentenced to 45 months in prison for drug trafficking," 22 Nov. 2019

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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Last Updated

23 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Culminate.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 26 January 2020.

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More Definitions for culminate


How to pronounce culminate (audio)

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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Comments on culminate

What made you want to look up culminate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to express in a more acceptable way

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