Definition of culprit
1 : one accused of or charged with a crime <The culprit pleaded “not guilty.”>
2 : one guilty of a crime or a fault <The culprit expressed remorse at his sentencing.>
3 : the source or cause of a problem <Lack of exercise and poor diet are the main culprits in heart disease.>
Examples of culprit in a sentence
The police eventually located the culprits.
<the police caught the culprit a mere two blocks from the scene of the crime>
Did You Know?
We would be culpable if we didn't clearly explain the origins behind culprit. Yes, it is related to culpable, which itself derives from Latin culpare, meaning "to blame," via Middle English and Anglo-French. But the etymology of culprit is not so straightforward. In Anglo-French, culpable meant "guilty," and this was abbreviated "cul." in legal briefs and texts. Culprit was formed by combining this abbreviation with prest, prit, meaning "ready"-that is, ready to prove an accusation. Literally, then, a culprit was one who was ready to be proven guilty. English then borrowed the word for one accused of a wrongdoing.
Origin and Etymology of culprit
Anglo-French cul. (abbreviation of culpable guilty) + prest, prit ready (i.e., to prove it), from Latin praestus — more at presto
First Known Use: 1678
CULPRIT Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of culprit for English Language Learners
: a person who has committed a crime or done something wrong
CULPRIT Defined for Kids
Definition of culprit for Students
: a person accused of, charged with, or guilty of a crime or fault
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up culprit? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).