cu·​mu·​la·​tive | \ˈkyü-myə-lə-tiv, -ˌlā-\

Definition of cumulative 

1a : increasing by successive additions

b : made up of accumulated parts

2 : tending to prove the same point cumulative evidence

3a : taking effect upon completion of another penal sentence a cumulative sentence

b : increasing in severity with repetition of the offense cumulative penalty

4 : formed by the addition of new material of the same kind a cumulative book index

5 : summing or integrating overall data or values of a random variable less than or less than or equal to a specified value cumulative normal distribution cumulative frequency distribution

6 finance

a : to be added if not paid when normally due to the next payment or a future payment cumulative preferred dividends cumulative interest

b of stock : bearing such a dividend cumulative preferred stock

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Other Words from cumulative

cumulatively adverb
cumulativeness noun

Examples of cumulative in a Sentence

… Game Boy, which first came out in 1989 as a monochrome handheld toy, has become the most successful of all of the systems, reaching cumulative sales of 110 million units to date … — N'gai Croal, Newsweek, 28 May 2001 They began looking at the cumulative effect of stress and realized that, while there might have been an incident that finally triggered the madness, a series of previous events had lowered the soldier's emotional resistance. — Michael Fleming and Roger Manvell, Psychology Today, July 1987 Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession. — Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance," in Essays1841 a cumulative weight gain of 20 pounds over the course of a year
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Recent Examples on the Web

The firm, with offices in San Francisco and Bedminster, N.J., has raised cumulative equity commitments of about $1.8 billion since 1996. WSJ, "Swander Pace Backs Meal Replacement Nutrition Provider," 29 Nov. 2018 There are four possibilities: Possibility #1: The tally marks are a cumulative total of target drones shot down by Lubeck over its career. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Why Does This German Frigate Have Drone “Kill Marks”?," 27 Aug. 2018 There are 40,000 of them in all, and the cumulative effect is an infinity room spawned in the more banal corners of Getty archives. Chloe Schama, Vogue, "Paola Pivi’s Transporting Exhibition Is a Whimsical Comment on Dark Realities," 15 Nov. 2018 The six-year contract contains cumulative wage hikes of more than 17 percent, retroactive to 2015, along with new measures governing internal discipline and appeals and the creation of a multipronged system of civilian police oversight. Steve Miletich, The Seattle Times, "Seattle City Council approves police-union contract; deal faces scrutiny by federal judge overseeing reforms," 13 Nov. 2018 Although the musical’s current London run has been extended twice, Mr. Cohl said the show has yet to turn a profit on the cumulative investment of $20 million-plus in its various productions. Charles Passy, WSJ, "Meatloaf Musical Rocks a New Idea—Forgoing Broadway," 28 Oct. 2018 Fashion shows—and Fashion Weeks, more broadly—are highly publicized events, with the cumulative followers of designers, brands, celebrities, and other people associated with the shows tuning in to see what's happening. Ana Colón, Glamour, "At New York Fashion Week, Designers Had a Strong Message: Vote," 13 Sep. 2018 Eccles thinks the founding team’s cumulative shares are worth more than $120 million. Kurt Wagner, Recode, "FanDuel’s founder didn’t make a dime when his company was acquired. Now he’s suing for millions.," 14 Aug. 2018 In this 10th anniversary year, it is estimated that 30,000 have taken part in the contest over the years, and winners have earned scholarships worth a cumulative $1 million. Jeff Piorkowski/special To,, "Shaker Heights Moreland design winners named; Maltz essay contest winners announced; more: Press Run," 4 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cumulative.' 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 cumulative

1605, in the meaning defined at sense 1b

History and Etymology for cumulative

see cumulate

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Last Updated

4 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for cumulative

The first known use of cumulative was in 1605

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More Definitions for cumulative



English Language Learners Definition of cumulative

: increasing or becoming better or worse over time through a series of additions

: including or adding together all of the things that came before


cu·​mu·​la·​tive | \ˈkyü-myə-lə-tiv, -ˌlā-\

Kids Definition of cumulative

: increasing (as in force, strength, amount, or importance) over time Rainy weather had a cumulative effect on the crops.


cu·​mu·​la·​tive | \ˈkyü-myə-lət-iv, -ˌlāt- \

Medical Definition of cumulative 

: increasing in effect by successive doses (as of a drug or poison) cumulative poisoning by organochlorine pesticides— Jack Clincy

Other Words from cumulative

cumulatively adverb

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cu·​mu·​la·​tive | \ˈkyü-myə-lə-tiv, -ˌlā- \

Legal Definition of cumulative 

1 : increasing by successive additions

2 : tending to prove the same point cumulative testimony

3 : following in time

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Comments on cumulative

What made you want to look up cumulative? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


the figure or shape of a crescent moon

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