cu·​mu·​la·​tive | \ ˈkyü-myə-lə-tiv How to pronounce cumulative (audio) , -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 data is cumulative through Sept. 22, and so only includes a few weeks of school for many students. Liz Bowie,, 28 Sep. 2021 While the number of Illinois schools reporting outbreaks rose from last week, climbing to 257 from 206, the increase is due in part to the list being cumulative, and some schools remaining on the list, even after the outbreak is contained. Joe Mahr,, 25 Sep. 2021 Stress can be cumulative, and concurrent negative life events, traumatic incident after incident, can amplify one’s response. Stephanie Hanes, The Christian Science Monitor, 7 Sep. 2021 These bonuses are cumulative, for a maximum of $45,000. James Crepea | The Oregonian/oregonlive, oregonlive, 2 Sep. 2021 Not getting the sleep your body requires to feel its best creates a sleep debt, which is cumulative and piles up each day1. Maressa Brown, SELF, 31 Aug. 2021 During both wars, the elevated inflation persisted for two or three years, so that the cumulative increase in the price level was more than 40 percent in the Civil War and approaching 20 percent in WWII. Casey B. Mulligan, National Review, 17 Aug. 2021 The pandemic’s toll is cumulative, and the U.S. can ill-afford to accumulate more. Ed Yong, The Atlantic, 12 Aug. 2021 Money is zero sum whereas science, fortunately, is cumulative. Gillian Woollett, STAT, 1 Aug. 2021

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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Time Traveler for cumulative

Time Traveler

The first known use of cumulative was in 1605

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Dictionary Entries Near cumulative



cumulative distribution function

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Last Updated

17 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Cumulative.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Oct. 2021.

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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 How to pronounce cumulative (audio) , -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- How to pronounce cumulative (audio) \

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- How to pronounce cumulative (audio) \

Legal Definition of cumulative

1 : increasing by successive additions
2 : tending to prove the same point cumulative testimony
3 : following in time

More from Merriam-Webster on cumulative

Nglish: Translation of cumulative for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cumulative for Arabic Speakers


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