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

Among them was Bernadette Corporation, a shadowy and amorphous collective that has attained cult status and which, 25 years on, continues to have influence on both aesthetic and conceptual levels. Laird Borrelli-persson, Vogue, "Notes from the Underground: With a New Book Out, Bernadette Van-Huy Tracks Her Evolution from Bernadette Corporation to Now," 5 Nov. 2018 In the end, that may do as much for Yeezy’s cult status as originally offering the sneaker to an elite few did. Nadra Nittle, Vox, "Why Yeezys, a brand based on exclusivity, are suddenly so easy to buy," 21 Sep. 2018 When a new piece dropped at Bazaar, women would travel across the city to cop their latest fix; her boutique had the cult status of Supreme. refinery29.com, "Mary Quant, Mini Skirt Purveyor, Is Being Honored With A Fashion Exhibit," 8 June 2018 Wines like Grace Family, Dalla Valle, Harlan and Bryant were gaining cult status. Esther Mobley, San Francisco Chronicle, "The rise of the Red Hills of Lake County," 1 June 2018 Despite still being a new kid on the fashion scene, designer label Sies Marjan has rapidly grown to cult cool-girl status. Megan Decker, Harper's BAZAAR, "Sies Marjan Just Launched the Perfect Summer Capsule Collection with Net-A-Porter," 16 May 2018 Eventually the label reached cult status with its custom varsity and cropped leather and suede jackets favored by the likes of Mary-Kate Olsen and Kristen Stewart. Lesley Mckenzie, latimes.com, "Katie Nehra couldn't find the perfect sweatpants. So she created a new line of elevated sportswear," 3 May 2018 The campy and creative reality show, currently in its 10th season with a growing cult status, had made superstars out of performers once relegated to nightclubs. Joey Guerra, Houston Chronicle, "Why hasn’t ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ cast a Houston queen?," 2 May 2018 It was made in very limited quantities, hit cult status quickly and has almost tripled in value since then. Bloomberg.com, "Hands-On With the Most Extreme New Rolex Available Today," 27 Apr. 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

16 Dec 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

having a pattern of small flowers

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Find the Cousins

  • a-large-tree-with-many-branches
  • Which pair shares a common word ancestor?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Syn City

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!