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.
culprit was our Word of the Day on 09/08/2014. Hear the podcast!
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
Recent Examples of culprit from the Web
Failure to meet with these standards will earn a chilling glare from Sister that will leave the culprit shuddering with memories of long-ago punishments involving rulers, kneeling on rice and making baby Jesus cry.
Sulfur combined with the enzymes released when onions are cut result in sulfuric acid, the culprit which causes eyes to tear.
Professor Kummerow published his findings about the role of trans fats in 1957, a time when the prevailing view held that saturated fats like those found in butter and cream were the big culprit in atherosclerosis.
Golden bamboo, or Phyllostachys aurea, is the most common culprit in control issue situations.
That’s a stark turnaround from 2005, when alcohol was the bigger culprit, detected in 41 percent of traffic deaths, compared to just 28 percent for drugs, as Reuters reported.
While oily or solvent-soaked rags are the usual culprits in fires that start on their own, organic matter like compost and beauty bark can also smolder spontaneously, Seattle Fire Department spokeswoman Kellie Randall said in an email.
The culprit: Disick's inability to stay away from past flings.
A possible culprit for trooper turnover is low pay.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'culprit'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
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.
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).