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


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 officers were swept up along with four others as part of what was billed as an ongoing federal probe in Harvey that culminated in raids of the police department and City Hall on March 6. Zak Koeske, Daily Southtown, "Harvey hires CPD lieutenant, ex-lawmaker to transform police department," 8 June 2019 Things pick up in the idyllic coastal town of Monterey a few months after the climactic elementary school fundraiser night that culminated with the ladies intervening in an altercation between Celeste and Perry. Yvonne Villarreal,, "‘Big Little Lies’ cast wants Season 2 to encourage women to unite and ‘make mistakes together’," 7 June 2019 Notre Dame is coming off a 14-19 season that culminated with a tie for last place in the ACC. Don Markus,, "Maryland men's basketball to host Notre Dame in 2019 Big Ten/ACC Challenge," 6 June 2019 His path was marked by a couple of muddled exits and resilience that culminated with President Trump last week offering him a seat on one of the... Nick Timiraos, WSJ, "Stephen Moore’s Unusual Route to the Fed as a Political Warrior," 28 Mar. 2019 Nearly five decades later, anger exploded in a series of protests in an around Lhasa that culminated in attacks on Chinese individuals and businesses in which the government says rioters killed 18 people. Christopher Bodeen, The Seattle Times, "China closes Tibet to foreigners for sensitive anniversaries," 19 Feb. 2019 Alexander-Murray would have been, for all its policy modesty, a rather remarkable political achievement after eight years of partisan gridlock over Obamacare that culminated in last year’s dramatic debate. Dylan Scott, Vox, "Lamar Alexander, pillar of Washington’s old guard, is retiring from the Senate," 17 Dec. 2018 Now there are other factors that culminate in the decision of making a show a hit. Eric Johnson, Recode, "Full Q&A: ‘Will & Grace’ co-star Sean Hayes on Recode Decode," 22 Oct. 2018 During the hearings that ultimately culminated in this historic win, the lawyers who represented over a dozen LGBTQ Indians questioned the constitutionality of the 2013 ruling, according to The Washington Post. Elly Belle, Teen Vogue, "India Decriminalized Same Sex Intercourse," 6 Sep. 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

12 Jun 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
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 move with exaggerated bouncy motions

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