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

With charges dropped, Smollett seemed to dodge what would have been emotionally grueling criminal proceedings, culminating in a trial with days of public testimony. Michael Tarm, The Seattle Times, "Upsides, downsides for Smollett, city in looming fines fight," 31 Mar. 2019 The boats were hired out by businesses eager to treat their clients to a day of luxurious hospitality, culminating in an afternoon racing on the Solent, the strait that separates the Isle of Wight from the mainland of England. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Kate Middleton Had a Job Working as a Deckhand for $6.81 an Hour," 31 Mar. 2019 The AWS DeepRacer League, Amazon's competition system for DeepRacer developers, will culminate with a championship each year at re:Invent. Jason Levitt, Ars Technica, "Start your (machine learning) engines: Amazon’s DeepRacer is almost here," 21 Dec. 2018 All the excitement will culminate in a days-long wedding celebration reportedly happening in India next month. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas' Wedding: Everything We Know So Far," 16 Nov. 2018 All of this will culminate in October with the announcement of America’s favorite novel, as determined by online voting. Adam Kirsch, WSJ, "The Way We Read Now," 3 Aug. 2018 Its revenue and marketshare had both jumped substantially in the wake of Uber’s repeated public relations disasters, which culminated in the departure of the ride-hailing giant’s founder and CEO Travis Kalanick. Faiz Siddiqui, The Seattle Times, "As it gets set for IPO, Lyft outlines all the reasons ride-sharing could fail," 25 Mar. 2019 The remarks come as China’s national parliament gathers in Beijing for two weeks of meetings expected to culminate in Xi’s appointment to a second term and a constitutional change allowing him to stay on indefinitely. Fortune, "Trump Praises Xi as China's 'President for Life,' Says U.S. May Give It 'A Shot Someday'," 4 Mar. 2018 Hollywood's 2018 award season is in the home stretch, and it is set to culminate Sunday, March 4, with the 90th annual Academy Awards. Mike Scott,, "Oscars ballot 2018: Get your printable, pool-friendly Academy Awards ballot here," 22 Feb. 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

15 May 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).


one that collects or salvages junk

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