often attributive
: a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious (see spurious sense 2)
also : its body of adherents
the voodoo cult
a satanic cult
: great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (such as a film or book)
criticizing how the media promotes the cult of celebrity
especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad
: the object of such devotion
: a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion
the singer's cult of fans
The film has a cult following.
: a system of religious beliefs and ritual
also : its body of adherents
the cult of Apollo
: formal religious veneration : worship
: a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator
health cults
cultic adjective
cultish adjective
cultishly adverb
cultishness noun
cultism noun
cultlike adjective

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The Overlap of Cults and Culture

Cult, which shares an origin with culture and cultivate, comes from the Latin cultus, a noun with meanings ranging from "tilling, cultivation" to "training or education" to "adoration." In English, cult has evolved a number of meanings following a fairly logical path. The earliest known uses of the word, recorded in the 17th century, broadly denoted "worship." From here cult came to refer to a specific branch of a religion or the rites and practices of that branch, as in "the cult of Dionysus." By the early 18th century, cult could refer to a non-religious admiration or devotion, such as to a person, idea, or fad ("the cult of success"). Finally, by the 19th century, the word came to be used of "a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious."

Examples of cult in a Sentence

She has developed a cult following. long after it had gone off the air, the TV series continued to have a huge cult
Recent Examples on the Web The family filed a criminal complaint in 1993, accusing the school of being a cult that had brainwashed their daughter. Ana Lankes, New York Times, 8 June 2024 The brand has always had a core cult following, but the recent surge in popularity comes as the company has embraced experimentation, rolling out new flavors like Creamy Coconut and Strawberries & Cream. Bychris Morris, Fortune, 4 June 2024 Maynard taught at various schools, including as an adjunct faculty member in Santa Clara University’s sociology department and as a lecturer at Sonoma State University specializing in criminal justice, cults and deviant behavior. Ishani Desai, Sacramento Bee, 30 May 2024 Miranda's sister, Melanie Wilking, and their parents released an Instagram Live video claiming that Miranda was in a cult and being deliberately kept from speaking to or seeing them. Jessica Sager, Peoplemag, 30 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for cult 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cult.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


French & Latin; French culte, from Latin cultus care, adoration, from colere to cultivate — more at wheel

First Known Use

1613, in the meaning defined at sense 4

Time Traveler
The first known use of cult was in 1613

Dictionary Entries Near cult

Cite this Entry

“Cult.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cult. Accessed 18 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


: a system of religious worship
: enthusiastic but often temporary devotion to a person, idea, or thing
: the object of such devotion
: a group of persons who belong to or show devotion to a cult
cultist noun

Medical Definition



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