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

In 2012, his execution was again postponed after several fugitives connected to the cult were arrested, allowing authorities to extend the investigation. NBC News, "Founder of doomsday cult behind deadly 1995 Tokyo subway gas attack executed in Japan," 6 July 2018 The attack targeted judges who lived in the neighborhood and were involved in a land-dispute case related to the cult. Author: Stuart Biggs, Gearoid Reidy, Anchorage Daily News, "Japan executes cult leader and 6 others for deadly 1995 sarin attack," 6 July 2018 Goop also has a legion of worldwide followers so dedicated one might compare the lifestyle brand to a cult or religion. Lindzi Scharf,, "Gwyneth Paltrow explains the meaning of Goop, talks about the future of her lifestyle brand," 12 June 2018 Your player character gets to be known as kind or ruthless—a friend to the pirate nation here or a foe to that cult there. Steven Strom, Ars Technica, "Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire," 4 June 2018 The only people in the U.S. who believe that Trump is honest and pure of heart are too deeply beholden to his cult of personality to change their minds in the wake of any scandal. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "Here’s Why Trump’s Approval Rating Has Gone Up," 16 May 2018 The organization also drew criticism from people who likened it to a cult. Stephanie Nolasco, Fox News, "Allison Mack's bizarre blog details life in alleged sex cult: 'It seems like it has been a lifetime in here already'," 23 Apr. 2018 The organization also drew criticism from people who likened it to a cult. Washington Post, "Actress arrested in sex trafficking in ‘guru to stars’ case," 22 Apr. 2018 The organization also drew criticism from people who likened it to a cult., "'Smallville' actress arrested in sex trafficking in 'guru to stars' case," 20 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.

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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

21 Oct 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

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).


exaggeratedly or childishly emotional

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