noun, often attributive
\ˈkəlt \

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 \ adjective
cultish \ ˈkəl-​tish \ adjective
cultishly \ ˈkəl-​tish-​lē \ adverb
cultishness \ ˈkəl-​tish-​nəs \ noun
cultism \ ˈkəl-​ˌti-​zəm \ noun
cultist \ ˈkəl-​tist \ noun
cultlike \ ˈkəlt-​ˌlīk \ 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

In March, cult-favorite fashion brand Reformation expanded its sizing for the first time, up to a size 22. Ana Colón, Glamour, "Reformation's Cult-Favorite Jeans Will Now Be Available in Sizes 0 Through 24," 12 Nov. 2018 And thankfully, Mitchell has taken a hot second off from her new Lifetime series You to tell the world about her favorite beauty products—namely, the cult-favorite Tarte concealer Mitchell swears by. Chloe Metzger, Marie Claire, "Shay Mitchell Loves Tarte Shape Tape Concealer Because It's Freaking Excellent," 4 Oct. 2018 Amy — who also created Gilmore Girls and the cult-favorite show Bunheads — received both honors for the pilot episode of her Amazon comedy, beating out critical favorites including Donald Glover for Atlanta and Bill Hader for Barry. Lily Rose, Teen Vogue, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Creator Amy Sherman-Palladino Makes History With Her 2018 Emmys Wins," 18 Sep. 2018 Brooklinen's classic sheet sets, for example, have climbed from a starting price of $99 to $109, which makes them comparable to another cult-favorite brand, Parachute (which also starts their sets at $109). Taylor Mead, House Beautiful, "Here's Why The Prices Of Brooklinen's Cotton Sheets Are Increasing," 4 Sep. 2018 This cult-favorite gadget performs seven functions in one, from slow cooking to yogurt making. Jenny Xie, Curbed, "Best kitchen accessories under $150 to shop now," 20 Aug. 2018 But Everlane—which targets a young, female, mostly millennial audience like Aritzia—already has a substantial cult following through its social channels and pop-up stores around the country. Rachel King, Fortune, "Meghan Markle Is Being Credited With Boosting Aritzia's Earnings. But Is the 'Meghan Effect' Real?," 13 July 2018 Throughout his ongoing work (the album 15 came out this year), he's maintained an unmistakable demeanor that's earned him a cult following. Jamie Ludwig, Chicago Reader, "Stephanie Marlow of Indie Publicity on a brutal band with a soft spot for pitties," 10 July 2018 Does performance tennis wear translate for Palace’s cross-Atlantic cult following of streetwear fiends? Samuel Hine, GQ, "Rebel Streetwear Brand Palace Has Crashed Wimbledon," 3 July 2018

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

18 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for cult

The first known use of cult was in 1613

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on cult

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for cult

Spanish Central: Translation of cult

Nglish: Translation of cult for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cult for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about cult

Comments on cult

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noxious or harmful

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