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Recorded since 1647, from Medieval Latin culminatus, the past participle of culminare (to crown), from Latin culmen (peak, the highest point), older form columen (top, summit), from a Proto-Indo-European base *kol-, *kel- (to project, rise; peak, summit, top), whence also English hill and holm.


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culminate (third-person singular simple present culminates, present participle culminating, simple past and past participle culminated)

  1. (intransitive, astronomy) Of a heavenly body, to be at the highest point, reach its greatest altitude.
  2. (intransitive, also figurative) To reach the (physical) summit, highest point, peak etc.
    Synonym: peak
    • 1667, John Milton, “Book 3”, in Paradise Lost. A Poem Written in Ten Books, London: Printed [by Samuel Simmons], and are to be sold by Peter Parker [] [a]nd by Robert Boulter [] [a]nd Matthias Walker, [], OCLC 228722708; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: The Text Exactly Reproduced from the First Edition of 1667: [], London: Basil Montagu Pickering [], 1873, OCLC 230729554:
      As when his beams at noon / Culminate from the equator.
    • (Can we date this quote by Dana and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?)
      The reptile race culminated in the secondary era.
    • (Can we date this quote by Motley and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?)
      The house of Burgundy was rapidly culminating.
    • 2019 October, Tony Miles and Philip Sherratt, “EMR kicks off new era”, in Modern Railways, page 53:
      This culminates in a timetable change in December 2020, at which point EMR will introduce a sixth train each hour out of St Pancras.
  3. (intransitive, figurative) To reach a climax; to come to the decisive point (especially as an end or conclusion).
    • 2006 September 12, “President Bush’s Reality”, in New York Times[1]:
      Mr. Bush has been marking the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11 with a series of speeches about terrorism that culminated with his televised address last night.
    Their messy breakup culminated in a restraining order.
    The class will culminate with a rigorous examination.
  4. (transitive) To finalize, bring to a conclusion, form the climax of.
    • 2010, "By the skin of her teeth", The Economist, 7 Sep 2010:
      The announcement by Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott in Canberra culminated more than a fortnight of intensive political horse-trading.

Related terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


culminate (not comparable)

  1. (anatomy) Relating to the culmen

Further reading[edit]




  1. second-person plural present indicative of culminare
  2. second-person plural imperative of culminare