cult

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 cultic (audio) \ adjective
cultish \ ˈkəl-​tish How to pronounce cultish (audio) \ adjective
cultishly \ ˈkəl-​tish-​lē How to pronounce cultishly (audio) \ adverb
cultishness \ ˈkəl-​tish-​nəs How to pronounce cultishness (audio) \ noun
cultism \ ˈkəl-​ˌti-​zəm How to pronounce cultism (audio) \ noun
cultist \ ˈkəl-​tist How to pronounce cultist (audio) \ noun
cultlike \ ˈkəlt-​ˌlīk How to pronounce cultlike (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

Manson murders back in the spotlight, 50 years later The gruesome incident from 1969 still seems to haunt us as a society: The Los Angeles murders of seven people by the followers of cult leader Charles Manson on Aug. 9 and 10. Editors, USA TODAY, "Ferguson five years later, online extremism summit, Premier League: 5 things to know Friday," 9 Aug. 2019 The brutal murder of Tate and six others over two nights shocked the nation and introduced the world to the notorious cult leader and his followers. Jonathan Miller, CBS News, "How CBS News covered the Manson murders," 9 Aug. 2019 But that was all cut short when Tate was killed — along with Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski and Steven Parent — in a horrific stabbing at her Los Angeles-area home by followers of cult leader Charles Manson. Stephanie Petit, PEOPLE.com, "What to Know About Sharon Tate, Pregnant Actress Killed by Charles Manson's Followers 50 Years Ago," 9 Aug. 2019 Charles Manson — the notorious cult leader convicted of orchestrating a string of L.A. murders, including actress Sharon Tate's, in 1969 — has been dead for two years. Scott Huver, The Hollywood Reporter, "Charles Manson's Never-Seen Artwork Goes on Display in L.A.," 8 Aug. 2019 The cult leader and his followers carved Xs into their foreheads to show their disdain for society. John Rogers, The Denver Post, "Manson prosecutor: Keep them all locked up forever," 6 Aug. 2019 Some girls paint their faces in clownish makeup and sing, following the entreaties of Piper (Basso), who grows into a powerful, charismatic cult leader of sorts. Los Angeles Times, "Review: ‘Ladyworld’ with Maya Hawke,’ plus Bud doc ‘Kings of Beer,’ ‘Consequences’ and ‘Moop’," 1 Aug. 2019 Former libertarian anarchist Stefan Molyneux is now a raving white nationalist alt-righter (and also an alleged cult leader). Lucy Steigerwald, The New Republic, "Justin Amash and the Libertarian Future," 29 July 2019 Since the film is ostensibly building toward the gruesome, real-life murder of the actress Sharon Tate (played by Margot Robbie) by the followers of the cult leader Charles Manson, Rothman’s hint of a crowd-pleasing ending was a bit of a curveball. New York Times, "‘Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood’ Has a Wild Ending. Let’s Talk.," 28 July 2019

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

12 Aug 2019

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The first known use of cult was in 1613

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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

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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

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about cult

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