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

Keep scrolling for more

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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

The film, which celebrates the late kids’ show host known for his messages of optimism and joy, earned $2.6 million for a cumulative total of $12.4 million in 893 theaters. Randall Roberts,, "Box office: 'Ant-Man and the Wasp' skitters to the top, 'Incredibles 2' leaps past $500 million," 8 July 2018 The company raised a fresh $66 million round of funding earlier this year, bringing its cumulative total to $79 million. Casey Newton, The Verge, "Slack didn’t kill email — and it might have made it stronger," 4 July 2018 Still going strong after 31 days on release and boosted by a one-month release extension, the tentpole added $6.6 million for a cumulative total of $366 million. Patrick Brzeski, The Hollywood Reporter, "China Box Office: Indian Comedy 'Toilet: A Love Story' Tops Quiet Weekend," 11 June 2018 To this day, more cumulative time is spent playing Pokémon Go than any other game. Brian Barrett, WIRED, "The Quiet, Steady Dominance of Pokémon Go," 6 July 2018 Their harmonic voices, and their cumulative success, are no doubt a testament to what a good teacher can accomplish in a career. Steve Hartman, CBS News, "Former students surprise music teacher who changed their lives," 13 July 2018 Many academics regard their work as part of an open, cumulative, and universal human project. Joe Karaganis, Washington Post, "Russia is building a new Napster — but for academic research," 13 July 2018 Prior to starting at Dunkin’ Donuts in October 2016, Hoffman worked at McDonald’s Corporation for a cumulative 22 years (including as a crew member in high school). Sarah Gray, Fortune, "Dunkin' Brands Names a New CEO Who Will Take Over 'Effective Immediately'," 11 July 2018 But there the overall effect is one of cumulative pathos. Alastair Macaulay, New York Times, "With Batsheva, Politics Inside and Outside the Joyce Theater," 11 July 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.

See More

First Known Use of cumulative

1605, in the meaning defined at sense 1b

History and Etymology for cumulative

see cumulate

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about cumulative

Share cumulative

Phrases Related to cumulative

cumulative effect

Statistics for cumulative

Last Updated

11 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for cumulative

The first known use of cumulative was in 1605

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more


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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


by word of mouth

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Food Quiz

Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!