cult

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Though millions of Colombians praise Uribe, some giving him an even cult-like status, others contend his advances as president came at the price of grave human rights abuses. Washington Post, "Former guerrilla, young conservative vie to lead Colombia," 17 June 2018 Despite glowing reviews and a cult-like following of eager buyers, new Model 3s have trickled out of Tesla's factories months behind schedule. The Washington Post, OregonLive.com, "Tesla, still losing money, is also shedding jobs," 12 June 2018 Freeform's The Bold Type first aired last summer but gained a cult-like following when the whole first season became available on Hulu. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "10 TV, Music, Movie, and Book Releases We're So Excited About This Week," 10 June 2018 So, what magic do these workout classes hold that have allowed them to garner such a cult-like following? Grace Dickinson, Philly.com, "Which Philly-area spin studio classes are worth the hype and heavy price tag?," 29 May 2018 Although there are only two locations at the moment, Rauch’s experience growing Trader Joe’s and building its cult-like following may help extend the model. Hallie Detrick, Fortune, "One Grocery Chain Is Removing 'Best Before' Stickers in a Dramatic Effort to Reduce Food Waste," 22 May 2018 Taylor Swift’s irresistible tunes have earned her a cult-like following of millions across the globe. Lukas Mikelionis, Fox News, "Taylor Swift can't seem to shake off stalking suspects, Internet kooks," 25 Apr. 2018 This guy has charisma to burn and is just one bad decision away from starting a cult, or making indie films. Jeffrey Lee Puckett, The Courier-Journal, "Miss Day 1 of Forecastle? No worries, here are 5 things you missed!," 14 July 2018 All countries have cults, and being well schooled is no protection against brainwashing. The Economist, "On the hanging of Shoko Asahara, Japan’s nerve-gas guru," 12 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about cult

Statistics for cult

Last Updated

9 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for cult

The first known use of cult was in 1613

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for cult

cult

noun

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 

Keep scrolling for more

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

Britannica.com: 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).

WORD OF THE DAY

a magnificent or impressive array

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Food Quiz

How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!