culprit

noun cul·prit \ ˈkəl-prət , -ˌprit \
Updated on: 16 Dec 2017

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

  1. The police eventually located the culprits.

  2. the police caught the culprit a mere two blocks from the scene of the crime

Recent Examples of culprit from the Web

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.

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


CULPRIT Defined for English Language Learners

culprit

noun

Definition of culprit for English Language Learners

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


CULPRIT Defined for Kids

culprit

noun cul·prit \ ˈkəl-prət \

Definition of culprit for Students

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


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