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 The book culminated with his decision, alongside husband David Furnish, to end his elaborate touring schedule. Dewayne Bevil,, "Disney proposed an Elton John theme park, his memoir says," 21 Nov. 2019 Lizzo, the Detroit native with the big pop hooks and plus-size positivity, culminated her breakout year with a haul of Grammy nominations Wednesday morning. Brian Mccollum, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit native Lizzo leads the way with 8 Grammy nominations," 20 Nov. 2019 The suspicious circumstances triggered protests, and culminated, three weeks later, with his flight into exile. Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker, "Bolivia’s Evo Morales Wants to Stay in the Game," 20 Nov. 2019 That trouble culminated with winger Andrei Svechnikov playing hero for the Hurricanes in overtime, netting the game-winner with a snappy wrist shot from the right circle. Dane Mizutani, Twin Cities, "Wild dig themselves another hole in 4-3 overtime loss to Hurricanes," 16 Nov. 2019 Rounds of questioning culminated in guesses at who the murderer could be. Lauren Warnecke,, "Review: Murder mysteries and a few bright moments in Hubbard Street Dance’s fall series," 9 Nov. 2019 This eventually culminated in the partition of the subcontinent in 1947, crystallising the Hindu-Muslim rivalry and, in turn, demonising historical Islamic rule in India. Manavi Kapur, Quartz India, "Babur: A carefully constructed villain who replaced Ravan in Hindu nationalists’ mind," 8 Nov. 2019 The suppression culminated in the Tiananmen massacre on June 4, 1989. King-wa Fu, Quartz, "Students in Hong Kong used fax machines to fight Chinese censorship of Tiananmen Square," 29 Oct. 2019 On the right, a wall of loose dirt culminated in the peaks of the Andes. Nell Zink, Harper's magazine, "The Bird Angle," 28 Oct. 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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Statistics for culminate

Last Updated

27 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Culminate.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 5 December 2019.

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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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