culprit

noun
cul·​prit | \ ˈkəl-prət How to pronounce culprit (audio) , -ˌprit\

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.

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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.

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 on the Web

Nearly all the drug candidates have targeted one of the key hallmarks of Alzheimer’s: amyloid plaques, the barnacle-like proteins long considered the main culprits behind the disease. Linda Marsa, Discover Magazine, "A New Treatment for Alzheimer's? It Starts With Lifestyle," 16 Nov. 2018 The main culprit is carbon monoxide: People forget that generators are internal combustion engines and run them in enclosed spaces. Ezra Dyer, Popular Mechanics, "How the Honda EU2200i Generator Is Getting Me Through Hurricane Florence," 17 Sep. 2018 Today, even though my skin is still far from perfect—occasional flare-ups still occur!—I at least know what the main culprit is. Christian Allaire, Vogue, "I Gave Up Dairy—And My Adult Acne Vanished in Under a Month," 28 July 2018 Others have argued the main culprit behind these die-offs was the changing climate. Jason G. Goldman, Scientific American, "In 200 Years Cows May Be the Biggest Land Mammals on the Planet," 20 Apr. 2018 Marinated fish: The main culprit here is unagi, which is freshwater eel covered in a sweet glaze. Anne Nickoloff, cleveland.com, "Get 'Rick-rolled' at Cleveland House Of Blues in April with Rick Astley show," 6 Feb. 2018 But the advent of the internet and the rise of social media are the main culprits. Alex Shephard, New Republic, "Facebook and Google Won’t Save Local News," 31 Jan. 2018 Some common culprits include fragrances, preservatives, and botanicals. Sarah Jacoby, SELF, "How to Care for Your Angry Skin After an Allergic Reaction on Your Face," 2 Apr. 2019 Another major culprit of transient pain is certain personal care products, says Dr. Coady. Elyssa Goodman, Glamour, "7 Causes of Pain During Sex—and What to Do About Them," 21 Mar. 2019

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.

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First Known Use of culprit

1678, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for culprit

Anglo-French cul. (abbreviation of culpable guilty) + prest, prit ready (i.e., to prove it), from Latin praestus — more at presto

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Dictionary Entries near culprit

culpatory

culpeo

Culpeper

culprit

culs-de-four

culs-de-lampe

cult

Statistics for culprit

Last Updated

5 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for culprit

The first known use of culprit was in 1678

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More Definitions for culprit

culprit

noun

English Language Learners Definition of culprit

: a person who has committed a crime or done something wrong

culprit

noun
cul·​prit | \ ˈkəl-prət How to pronounce culprit (audio) \

Kids Definition of culprit

: a person accused of, charged with, or guilty of a crime or fault

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More from Merriam-Webster on culprit

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with culprit

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for culprit

Spanish Central: Translation of culprit

Nglish: Translation of culprit for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of culprit for Arabic Speakers

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