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

Simon Miller’s blue seasonless Bonsai bucket bag is on sale for just under $300 and the cult-classic patent slide sandals from Maryam Nassir Zadeh for under $250. Madeline Fass, Vogue, "The Best Online Black Friday Fashion Deals to Shop From Home," 22 Nov. 2018 The half-hour comedy looks to preserve the same deadpan humor and worldweary tone that made the original film an instant cult classic. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Vampires navigate NYC in first teasers for What We Do in the Shadows," 1 Nov. 2018 Back in 1973, Robin Hardy completed his shocking cult classic The Wicker Man just in time to see a shakeup at studio British Lion erode all support for his movie. Tasha Robinson, The Verge, "Netflix’s Apostle takes The Wicker Man to a radical new level," 12 Oct. 2018 According to The Hollywood Reporter, the TV reboot of the '80s cult classic movie will premiere on the Paramount Network on Thursday, October 25, and will continue to air in two-hour blocks up until October 29. Dan Barna, Teen Vogue, "The "Heathers" Reboot Has Been Re-Edited and Will Air on the Paramount Network," 4 Oct. 2018 One of the most concrete examples of it being used, though in a different context, is in the cult classic movie Teen Wolf. Alex Abad-santos, Vox, "Brett Kavanaugh’s yearbook: the “boof” joke, explained," 27 Sep. 2018 Shop Grace's Routine After cleansing her skin, Elizabeth uses the cult-classic Advanced Night Repair Serum. Harper's Bazaar Staff, Harper's BAZAAR, "What Model Grace Elizabeth Uses On Her Skin Every Night," 11 Sep. 2018 Back in 2005, Slahi and his guards had watched the cult classic together, reciting lines along with the characters. Carol Rosenberg, miamiherald, "A freed Guantánamo prisoner and his ex-guard meet again in remarkable Ramadan reunion," 11 June 2018 After her death in 1995, Notes of a Crocodile became a cult classic in Taiwan and Qiu became an icon. Ankita Chakraborty, Longreads, "A Crocodile In Paris: The Queer Classics of Qiu Miaojin," 8 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

2 Dec 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

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to move with a clumsy heavy tread

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