adjective cu·mu·la·tive \ ˈkyü-myə-lə-tiv , -ˌlā- \
|Updated on: 14 Aug 2018

Definition of cumulative

1 a : increasing by successive additions
b : made up of accumulated parts
2 : tending to prove the same point
  • cumulative evidence
3 a : 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





Examples of cumulative in a Sentence

  1. … 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 CroalNewsweek28 May 2001
  2. 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 ManvellPsychology TodayJuly 1987
  3. 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
  4. a cumulative weight gain of 20 pounds over the course of a year

Recent Examples of cumulative from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of cumulative

CUMULATIVE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of cumulative for English Language Learners

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

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

CUMULATIVE Defined for Kids


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

Definition of cumulative for Students

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

Medical Dictionary


adjective 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



Law Dictionary


adjective 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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very hard to disturb or upset

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