Definition of cult in US English:



  • 1A system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object.

    ‘the cult of St. Olaf’
    • ‘The cult image of Artemis was brought out from the inner sanctum and, gilded and white, shone brilliantly in the morning sun.’
    • ‘The support for Mary, a universal saint, may sometimes have been at the expense of local cults, making Marian devotions a central element in the progress of ultramontanism.’
    • ‘As he notes, cults of holy images have been the subject of a long debate in Christianity.’
    • ‘The cult of saints and their relics explains the popularity of pilgrimage.’
    • ‘At least one underground temple catacomb has been associated with the cult of a Mother Goddess.’
    • ‘The cult of the ancestors is practiced among many of the ethnic groups.’
    • ‘Monks promoted the cult of their own saints and could write disparagingly of others.’
    • ‘The pre-Christian religion of the Fijians was both animistic and polytheistic, and included a cult of chiefly ancestors.’
    1. 1.1 A relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.
      ‘a network of Satan-worshiping cults’
      • ‘These people include evangelical lay preachers, religious leaders associated with New Age religions, and leaders of religious movements designated as cults.’
      • ‘I heard that it had something to do with some kind of satanic cult.’
      • ‘The street urchins lived in fear of some strange murderous cult.’
      • ‘In all of the cults, the killing of pigs was a major part of the cult activities.’
      • ‘There were moments when I thought he would try to get me to join a bizarre gullibility cult.’
      • ‘Maybe our whole culture is a destructive suicide cult.’
      • ‘He even started a Sufi cult under his name that became also a place for mystics from different faiths too.’
      • ‘His characters have run for president, hacked the New York Stock Exchange and joined the occasional religious cult.’
      • ‘He also quotes a writer in 1939, who read a scene of nude figures carved upon a bowl as representing worshippers in a mystery cult.’
      • ‘And their world view became embodied in a pagan cult.’
      • ‘The promotion of the generative powers of earth, water, and human, animal, and fish populations is a common concern of major religions and small-scale cults the world over.’
      • ‘The mystery cults usually enforced certain dietary rules and also required participation in various rites.’
      • ‘He was not a common madman who thought he was God and established a cult dedicated to the veneration of himself.’
      • ‘Certain cults and religious specialists gain popularity beyond the local level because people feel that they can offer effective help for certain problems.’
      • ‘Will witches, cults, and strange religions soon get taxpayers' dollars?’
      • ‘The belief system of many modern cults and spiritual groups is a hodgepodge conglomeration of ideas from religion, philosophy, psychology, the occult, and science.’
      • ‘This definition actually denotes what we call denominations and sects and would make all religious movements a cult.’
      • ‘A culture of peace, life and beauty became a suicide cult.’
      • ‘Society suffers from dangerous sects and cults, militia movements, media control, and misrepresentations of psychiatric treatment and mental disorders.’
      • ‘The loss of life was terrible, but it was no more than one in a series of occasional tragedies caused by the misguided beliefs of cults and their members.’
      sect, religious group, denomination, religious order, church, faith, faith community, belief, persuasion, affiliation, movement
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    2. 1.2 A misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing.
      ‘a cult of personality surrounding the leaders’
      • ‘The fellow with the Village People mustache, who wears a white dress shirt and tie, is being marketed as a cult of personality.’
      • ‘Does it bother you that there's a cult of personality built up around him?’
      • ‘The industry is feeding the cult of personality to these architect winemakers.’
      • ‘In stark contrast to so many other dictators, he never encouraged a cult of personality.’
      • ‘Or perhaps they center too much on the cult of personality from the opposing side.’
      • ‘It is a very short step from institutionalised demonstrations of national loyalty to a mindless cult of ‘my country right or wrong’.’
      • ‘Accordingly some aspects of domestic rectitude predated the cult of domesticity.’
      • ‘He liked the comparison, and believes firmly in the cult of the personality as a valuable element in business development.’
      • ‘However, the cult of the business personality was, in part, designed to serve as a distraction.’
      • ‘Media-orchestrated cults of personality and shameless historical revisionism, they already know about.’
      • ‘The nineteenth century cult of domesticity located its origin in this revolutionary development.’
      • ‘He brooked no rivals, anointed no successors and developed a cult of personality that was indivisible from his people's hopes.’
      • ‘The modern cult of the television celebrity… tends to handicap a living candidate.’
      • ‘During and after the war, a highly developed personality cult evolved.’
      • ‘The latter resonates with equal amounts of wry self-reflexivity and acknowledgement of issues concerning representation and cults of personality.’
      • ‘Every President colludes with the American people to create his own cult of personality.’
      • ‘Racial and sexual politics as well as the cult of celebrity get the treatment.’
      • ‘Still others have cautioned against the spate of monuments that they see as celebrating the cult of the personality.’
      • ‘With the cult of the personality now stronger than at any time in sport, sports companies have tried to associate themselves with successes that are viewed worldwide.’
      • ‘However, as this was primarily based on a cult of personality, it was inevitably short lived.’
      obsession with, fixation on, mania for, passion for
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    3. 1.3usually as modifier A person or thing that is popular or fashionable, especially among a particular section of society.
      ‘a cult film’
      • ‘As an aside, does a film adaptation of a cult or popular novel fall into the same area as is under discussion here?’
      • ‘The film developed a sizable cult following, however, particularly in the comedy and hip-hop communities.’
      • ‘The most famous of the Pop artists, the cult figure Andy Warhol, recreated quasi-photographic paintings of people or everyday objects.’
      • ‘A cult figure to the masses, controversies dogged him after that fantastic debut.’
      • ‘In the US she's now a cult figure with a discography to match.’
      • ‘The cult following these films now carry is spectacular and deserved.’
      • ‘The in-jokes which helped to make the series such a cult hit among film buffs are also in abundance.’
      • ‘He has invigorated an apathetic fan base and developed a cult following among a student body that rarely showed its face in previous years.’
      • ‘In an all girls school a young reasonably good looking man had cult status.’
      • ‘Find out what's new on DVD, including a ' 60s cult TV classic.’
      • ‘Mostly we picked out horror movies - Bruce seemed to specialize in finding the most bizarre cult films available.’
      • ‘It said the BBC commentator had become a cult figure because of his ‘dry comments and lack of restraint’.’
      • ‘He is a cult figure today whose books are expensive collectors' items.’
      • ‘The company's ads have gained a cult following among advertisers and laymen alike.’
      • ‘In its original weekday time slot, the show became an enormous cult hit.’
      • ‘So the combination of being a heavy drinker, vastly overweight and a smoker - yes, he smoked as well - made him a cult figure on the circuit.’
      • ‘Shooting took about a month and the film became a cult classic among many people.’
      • ‘Gleeful nastiness has pervaded and polluted both his plays and movies, and, sad to say, made him a cult figure.’
      • ‘It did remarkably well at the box office, and garnered a strong cult following among college-age Americans.’
      • ‘You do have a rabid cult following.’
      craze, fashion, fad, vogue
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Early 17th century (originally denoting homage paid to a divinity): from French culte or Latin cultus ‘worship’, from cult- ‘inhabited, cultivated, worshipped’, from the verb colere.