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[kuhlt] /kʌlt/
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 relating 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
Related forms
cultic, cultual
[kuhl-choo-uh l] /ˈkʌl tʃu əl/ (Show IPA),
cultish, adjective
anticult, noun, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for cults
  • They will write impressive books, give inspiring lectures, organize exciting cults.
  • The others imposed other types of faith based ideological cults.
  • Even adherents of sedate sub-cults such as yoga are liable to have their limbs damagingly contorted by maverick instructors.
  • And evangelists and doomsday cults continue to embrace it.
  • It's not only the crisis but also the types of problems people face these days that have fueled the expansion of the cults.
  • Historically, the cults of personality have come from your side of the aisle.
  • Many movements begin as cults of personality or cults otherwise defined.
  • The shift fueled a welter of coups and cults of personality.
  • cults have been a subject or theme in literature and popular culture since ancient times.
British Dictionary definitions for cults


a specific system of religious worship, esp with reference to its rites and deity
a sect devoted to such a system
a quasi-religious organization using devious psychological techniques to gain and control adherents
(sociol) a group having an exclusive ideology and ritual practices centred on sacred symbols, esp one characterized by lack of organizational structure
intense interest in and devotion to a person, idea, or activity: the cult of yoga
the person, idea, etc, arousing such devotion
  1. something regarded as fashionable or significant by a particular group
  2. (as modifier): a cult show
(modifier) of, relating to, or characteristic of a cult or cults: a cult figure
Derived Forms
cultism, noun
cultist, noun
Word Origin
C17: from Latin cultus cultivation, refinement, from colere to till
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for cults



1610s, "worship," also "a particular form of worship," from French culte (17c.), from Latin cultus "care, labor; cultivation, culture; worship, reverence," originally "tended, cultivated," past participle 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.

Cult. An organized group of people, religious or not, with whom you disagree. [Rawson]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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cults in Culture

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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