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

Essential Meaning of cult

1 : 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 satanic cult cult members
2 : a situation in which people admire and care about something or someone very much or too much He criticizes the way journalists promote the cult of celebrity in modern America. [=the tendency of people to care too much about famous people] a cult of personality = a personality cult
3 : a small group of very devoted supporters or fans a cult of admirers She has developed a cult following.

Full 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

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 Who Fell to Earth series, a new take on the material that spawned the cult-classic movie starring David Bowie. Tyler Aquilina,, 15 Jan. 2022 Between Brown’s appearance in Scream and her role as Taissa in the instant cult classic psychological drama Showtime series Yellowjackets, the actress has speent the last year and a half doing her fair share of screaming on-screen. Rivea Ruff, Essence, 14 Jan. 2022 An underdog that enjoyed some limelight before sauntering back to the cult-classic aisle. Matt Wake |, al, 12 Jan. 2022 The late comedian and actor’s extensive résumé also included a hilarious appearance in the 1998 cult-classic comedy Half Baked. Latifah Muhammad, Billboard, 11 Jan. 2022 Patrick Hughes will direct a new take on the cult classic for Netflix with Michael Bay and XYZ Films producing. Etan Vlessing, The Hollywood Reporter, 10 Jan. 2022 The R+Co Oblivion Clarifying Shampoo ($27, DermStore) is a cult classic and another great choice for many with oily strands. Jenn Sinrich, SELF, 10 Jan. 2022 From clean beauty boxes to cult-classic favorites, here’s a look at the best beauty subscription boxes to join right now. Kiana Murden, Vogue, 7 Jan. 2022 Rosebank, Port Ellen, and Brora all performed very well in part because of their cult following among whisky enthusiasts but especially after the news was announced that these distilleries are all being resurrected. Joseph V Micallef, Forbes, 9 Dec. 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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Last Updated

20 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Cult.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jan. 2022.

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