Definition of culprit in US English:



  • 1A person who is responsible for a crime or other misdeed.

    • ‘They caught the real culprit so here I am.’
    • ‘The invaders are the real culprits in all cases.’
    • ‘He said staff members were the main culprits in the theft of medicines from the public health centres.’
    • ‘The car is returned and the real culprits are identified.’
    • ‘Police say they are doing all they can to bring the culprits to justice.’
    • ‘The culprits fled the scene by car, abandoning the stolen tractor at the scene.’
    • ‘In eight percent of the cases, the culprits plundered the victim's bank accounts.’
    • ‘Apparently, as a manager, it was his responsibility to chase down the offending culprit and resolve the situation.’
    • ‘We have a cop who falls in love with a possible culprit in a murder mystery.’
    • ‘It is only with the help of local people that police can crack down on the crime spree, catch the culprits and bring them to justice.’
    • ‘Despite numerous red herrings, there's no way to logically deduce the culprit's identity.’
    • ‘I have never heard any of the culprits being charged with any ‘crime’ whatsoever.’
    • ‘A shot was discharged and the culprit fled the scene.’
    • ‘He alerted a police patrol at the top of the road and officers quickly arrived, by which time the culprits had fled.’
    • ‘But it is not enough to identify likely culprits.’
    • ‘Police and all concerned parties are working together to bring the culprit or culprits to justice.’
    • ‘A swift and thorough investigation must be launched to bring the culprits to justice.’
    • ‘I don't recall the culprit ever been caught.’
    • ‘The culprits behaved like seasoned thugs but claimed that they were guardians of law and order.’
    • ‘Frowning, I glanced around the room trying to find the culprit responsible for interrupting my reading.’
    guilty party, offender, wrongdoer, person responsible
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 The cause of a problem or defect.
      ‘viruses could turn out to be the culprit’
      • ‘The real culprit is the private sector, far too dependent on low wages in the place of investment.’
      • ‘What this book shows quite clearly is that the real culprit is the lack of political will.’
      • ‘To identify the suspected viral culprits in both these cases, they needed a lot more infected leaves.’
      • ‘A sinister, manipulative government and major corporate industries are exposed as the primary culprits.’
      • ‘The real culprit is poverty, disease and starvation.’
      • ‘The real culprit, though, is the system of relegating three teams from Division One each season.’
      • ‘The person you see in that little mirror is the real culprit in the current crisis.’
      • ‘But she said supermarkets were the real culprits for selling alcohol to under-age drinkers.’
      • ‘The real culprit is the unchecked fragmentation of land holdings in the rural areas.’
      • ‘The main culprits for all that racket are the muscles of the palate and the uvula.’
      • ‘Cooking odours are one of the main culprits that cause unpleasant household odours.’
      • ‘The doctors whispered that it was second-hand smoking, the worst culprit.’
      • ‘The general public and scientists alike viewed electric power plants as the chief culprits.’
      • ‘In this case the alleged villain is the drug companies but the real culprit is government.’
      • ‘Nobody seems to know the cause of the deaths but the water seems a likely culprit.’
      • ‘If the culprit is depleted uranium they are probably out of luck because any clean up would take a very long time and cost a lot of money.’
      • ‘Digital photography and fewer people taking holidays appear to be the main culprits there.’


Late 17th century (originally in the formula Culprit, how will you be tried?, said by the Clerk of the Crown to a prisoner pleading not guilty): perhaps from a misinterpretation of the written abbreviation cul. prist for Anglo-Norman French Culpable: prest d'averrer notre bille ‘(You are) guilty: (We are) ready to prove our indictment’; in later use influenced by Latin culpa ‘fault, blame’.