often attributive
1
: a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious (see spurious sense 2)
also : its body of adherents
the voodoo cult
a satanic cult
2
a
: 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
cultic adjective
cultish adjective
cultishly adverb
cultishness noun
cultism noun
cultlike adjective

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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 The homeowners were happy to let the team drain their massive pool and build out the cult’s requisite cistern atop it. Rachel Davies, Architectural Digest, 3 July 2024 The brightly-colored swimwear — a reflection of the cult’s affinity for water — was a surprise pick for Dafoe, who made a beeline for it in the fitting room. Caitlin Chatterton, CNN, 2 July 2024 And that TikTok group is like a bit of a cult following too. Angela Watercutter, WIRED, 2 July 2024 Katja must navigate depraved death cults, otherworldly forces, and the ever-present horror of The HUSH, to save herself and those who rely upon her. Jennifer Maas, Variety, 2 July 2024 See all Example Sentences for cult 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cult.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

French & Latin; French culte, from Latin cultus care, adoration, from colere to cultivate — more at wheel

First Known Use

1613, in the meaning defined at sense 4

Time Traveler
The first known use of cult was in 1613

Dictionary Entries Near cult

Cite this Entry

“Cult.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cult. Accessed 17 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

cult

noun
1
: a system of religious worship
2
a
: enthusiastic but often temporary devotion to a person, idea, or thing
b
: the object of such devotion
c
: a group of persons who belong to or show devotion to a cult
cultist noun

Medical Definition

cult

abbreviation

More from Merriam-Webster on cult

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