a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies.
an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers: the physical fitness cult.
the object of such devotion.
a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.
Sociology. a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols.
a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.
the members of such a religion or sect.
any system for treating human sickness that originated by a person usually claiming to have sole insight into the nature of disease, and that employs methods regarded as unorthodox or unscientific.
of or pertaining to a cult.
of, for, or attracting a small group of devotees: a cult movie.

1610–20; < Latin cultus habitation, tilling, refinement, worship, equivalent to cul-, variant stem of colere to inhabit, till, worship + -tus suffix of v. action

cultic, cultual [kuhl-choo-uhl] , adjective
cultish, adjective
anticult, noun, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
cult (kʌlt)
1.  a specific system of religious worship, esp with reference to its rites and deity
2.  a sect devoted to such a system
3.  a quasi-religious organization using devious psychological techniques to gain and control adherents
4.  sociol a group having an exclusive ideology and ritual practices centred on sacred symbols, esp one characterized by lack of organizational structure
5.  intense interest in and devotion to a person, idea, or activity: the cult of yoga
6.  the person, idea, etc, arousing such devotion
7.  a.  something regarded as fashionable or significant by a particular group
 b.  (as modifier): a cult show
8.  (modifier) of, relating to, or characteristic of a cult or cults: a cult figure
[C17: from Latin cultus cultivation, refinement, from colere to till]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

1617, "worship," also "a particular form of worship," from Fr. culte, from L. cultus "care, cultivation, worship," originally "tended, cultivated," pp. of colere "to till" (see colony). Rare after 17c.; revived mid-19c. with reference to ancient or primitive rituals. Meaning
"devotion to a person or thing" is from 1829.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

cult definition

In anthropology, an organization for the conduct of ritual, magical, or other religious observances. Many so-called primitive tribes, for example, have ancestor cults, in which dead ancestors are considered divine and activities are organized to respect their memory and invoke their aid. A cult is also a religious group held together by a dominant, often charismatic individual, or by the worship of a divinity, an idol, or some other object. (See animism, fetish, and totemism.)

Note: The term cult often suggests extreme beliefs and bizarre behavior.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Example sentences
The other members of the group have become cult celebrities, too.
If the cult of this sound continues long enough, it may in time come to be a
  natural and established sound in the language.
The cult of the chief executive has reached absurd proportions.
But more than two years on, much has changed, notably the personality cult
  surrounding the former president.
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