noun, often attributive
\ ˈkəlt How to pronounce cult (audio) \

Essential Meaning of cult

1 : 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 satanic cult cult members
2 : a situation in which people admire and care about something or someone very much or too much He criticizes the way journalists promote the cult of celebrity in modern America. [=the tendency of people to care too much about famous people] a cult of personality = a personality cult
3 : a small group of very devoted supporters or fans a cult of admirers She has developed a cult following.

Full 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

Other Words from cult

cultic \ ˈkəl-​tik How to pronounce cult (audio) \ adjective
cultish \ ˈkəl-​tish How to pronounce cult (audio) \ adjective
cultishly \ ˈkəl-​tish-​lē How to pronounce cult (audio) \ adverb
cultishness \ ˈkəl-​tish-​nəs How to pronounce cult (audio) \ noun
cultism \ ˈkəl-​ˌti-​zəm How to pronounce cult (audio) \ noun
cultlike \ ˈkəlt-​ˌlīk How to pronounce cult (audio) \ 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 The sale is off to an incredible start with wrinkle-smoothing selections from clean beauty brand Juice Beauty, as well as Banila's cult-favorite K Beauty cleansing balm. Bella Cacciatore, Glamour, 4 Jan. 2022 After Shave has proven to be worthy of its cult-favorite status. Joseph Deacetis, Forbes, 23 Dec. 2021 Or go the failproof route with cult-favorite Gap and Madewell options. Vogue, 10 Dec. 2021 Wind down with Walmart’s extensive wellness offerings, featuring discounts on cult-favorite Theragun massagers, slippers, and so on. Kristin Granero, SELF, 29 Nov. 2021 The cult-favorite ecosneaker brand’s new mid-fur styles have a cool high-top silhouette; easy-on, easy-off zips; and genuine sheepskin lining that gives them traction in the colder months. Fiorella Valdesolo, Curbed, 19 Nov. 2021 The first season of the lavish Sky Italy original produced by Sky and Cattleya — which is owned by ITV Studios — in collaboration with show runner Matteo Rovere’s Groenlandia shingle, has now attained cult status, if not stellar ratings, in Italy. Nick Vivarelli, Variety, 7 Dec. 2021 The cult of Jerry Seinfeld and his flip side, Howard Stern. Cal Newport, The New Yorker, 6 Dec. 2021 Here the scene is presided over by a fountain statue of Diana of Ephesus, multibreasted cult goddess. Los Angeles Times, 6 Dec. 2021

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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Last Updated

8 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Cult.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jan. 2022.

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