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

Six of his followers who were senior members of the cult were also executed at four detention houses across Japan. Washington Post,, "Japan executes Aum cult leader and six members linked to sarin gas attacks," 6 July 2018 The cult taught that the global conspiracies would lead to a third World War and a nuclear Armageddon. NBC News, "Founder of doomsday cult behind deadly 1995 Tokyo subway gas attack executed in Japan," 6 July 2018 An earlier sarin gas attack by the cult in central Japan in 1994 killed seven people. Alastair Gale, WSJ, "Japan Executes Leader of Doomsday Cult," 6 July 2018 The judge said the attack was planned in order to prevent the police from cracking down on the cult. Austin Ramzy, New York Times, "Japan Executes Cult Leader Behind 1995 Sarin Gas Subway Attack," 5 July 2018 As a result, the cult hit whisky—already tough to find—will now be even more valuable and sought after. Natalie B. Compton, GQ, "Four Bottles of Booze That Make for Easy, High-Reward Father's Day Presents," 12 June 2018 One of the few actual new announcements during Square Enix’s showcase was Babylon’s Fall, the next game from Platinum, the action-focused studio behind the cult hit Nier: Automata. Andrew Webster, The Verge, "All the trailers from Square Enix at E3 2018," 11 June 2018 By the end, it’s revealed that Annie’s mother was the leader of a demonic cult that stoked up drama from the afterlife so that the rest of her family can join her. Yohana Desta, HWD, "Let’s Talk about Hereditary’s Insane Ending," 8 June 2018 An ordinary teenage boy discovers his family is part of a gruesome orgy cult for the social elite. Houston Chronicle, "Outside the Cineplex: 'Dangerous Liaisons' and 'Spaceballs'," 6 June 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

23 Sep 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

What made you want to look up cult? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


occurring twice a year or every two years

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