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 Japanese officials executed Shoko Asahara, who ran a doomsday cult that attacked the Tokyo subway in 1995. Washington Post, "‘She didn’t deserve to die the way she did,’ says family of cult leader found dead and mummified," 5 May 2021 The Sons of Sam makes a case against multiple other potential suspects who are all allegedly connected via a satanic cult known as The Children, with help from investigative journalist Maury Terry. Ew Staff,, "What to Watch on Wednesday: The Masked Singer returns with the 'Spicy 6' and Chrissy Metz," 5 May 2021 With Nothing Underneath, a cult London shirtmaker that does boyish British tailoring for women, tried to guess. WSJ, "Mother’s Day Gift Ideas for the Mom Who Needs a Break," 4 May 2021 One of rap’s most promising risers, Lil Baby; the cult phenomenon Bryson Tiller; and the EGOT contender H.E.R. all appear multiple times. Sheldon Pearce, The New Yorker, "The Empty Blockbuster Music of DJ Khaled," 4 May 2021 Bell has been a name since her breakout role on Veronica Mars in 2004, a cult series that wormed its way deep into fans’ hearts. Michelle Ruiz, SELF, "Kristen Bell on Seeking Peace, Parenting Her Kids, and Still Being So Damn in Love With Dax," 3 May 2021 BaubleBar has some cult favorite pics and, for this week, items are 20% off with code BB2U. Leada Gore |, al, "Mother’s Day 2021: Top gift ideas to order online, have delivered to her door," 3 May 2021 On April 27, photos of cult-fave and oft-memed actress Sarah Paulson circulated on social media. Erica Russell,, "Dear Hollywood, Can You Please Just Hire Actual Fat People to Play Fat Characters?," 3 May 2021 Now, research published in the journal Antiquity offers new insights on the monuments, suggesting they may have been used by a widespread Neolithic cattle cult. Livia Gershon, Smithsonian Magazine, "Did a Neolithic Cattle Cult Build These Sprawling Structures in Saudi Arabia?," 1 May 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

8 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Cult.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 May. 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

Comments on cult

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