noun, often attributive
\ ˈkəlt How to pronounce cult (audio) \

Definition of cult

1 : a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious (see spurious sense 2) also : its body of adherents the voodoo cult a satanic cult
2a : 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
b : the object of such devotion
c : a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion the singer's cult of fans The film has a cult following.
3 : a system of religious beliefs and ritual also : its body of adherents the cult of Apollo
4 : formal religious veneration : worship
5 : a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator health cults

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Other Words from cult

cultic \ ˈkəl-​tik How to pronounce cult (audio) \ adjective
cultish \ ˈkəl-​tish How to pronounce cult (audio) \ adjective
cultishly \ ˈkəl-​tish-​lē How to pronounce cult (audio) \ adverb
cultishness \ ˈkəl-​tish-​nəs How to pronounce cult (audio) \ noun
cultism \ ˈkəl-​ˌti-​zəm How to pronounce cult (audio) \ noun
cultlike \ ˈkəlt-​ˌlīk How to pronounce cult (audio) \ adjective

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 week of March 8: bond worries, Biden’s binge, the cult of asceticism, and much, much more. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "Treasurys Tremble," 13 Mar. 2021 So Diana broke out of a confining, almost religious cult. Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, "Harry, Meghan, and the Pact Between the Royals and the Press," 11 Mar. 2021 Well, according to the Roadmap there’s going to be home improvements, some sort of spooky cult, and new options for maritime exploration. Reece Rogers, Wired, "Valheim Is Changing How We Play Survival Games," 2 Mar. 2021 The idea that the GOP is a death cult has recently become axiomatic, not only among the left but among liberals. Colette Shade, The New Republic, "The Year We Learned to Live Like Life Doesn’t Matter," 11 Dec. 2020 For example, plenty of Republicans as well as Democrats know that QAnon is a conspiracy cult. Brian Stelter, CNN, "Despite disinformation, there is ample evidence that the truth still matters," 13 Oct. 2020 Rather than delighting in the failures and drama of others like many reality series, this mid-2000s MTV cult favorite delighted in making dreams come true. Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY, "The 40 best TV shows to watch on Paramount+ right now, from 'The Good Fight' to 'The Real World'," 16 Mar. 2021 NiHao, in Baltimore, opened in July with a Chinese menu featuring several adaptations of the Sichuan dishes that have made the chef Peter Chang a cult star. New York Times, "Why Starting a Restaurant During the Pandemic Was a Smart Move," 15 Mar. 2021 Rihanna opted for a design featuring dreamy, trippy illustrations by the cult label Brain Dead. Liana Satenstein, Vogue, "Rihanna Wears Her Cult Sweatpants With Heels, Of Course," 12 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cult.' 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 cult

1613, in the meaning defined at sense 4

History and Etymology for cult

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

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Statistics for cult

Last Updated

2 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Cult.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for cult



English Language Learners Definition of cult

: a small religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion and that has beliefs regarded by many people as extreme or dangerous
: a situation in which people admire and care about something or someone very much or too much
: a small group of very devoted supporters or fans

Medical Definition of cult

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