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From French culte, from Latin cultus (care, adoration; cult), from colō (cultivate; protect).



cult (plural cults)

  1. (offensive, derogatory) A group of people with a religious, philosophical or cultural identity sometimes viewed as a sect, often existing on the margins of society or exploitative towards its members.
    • 1985, Rodney Stark, Religious movements: Genesis, Exodus, and Numbers, Paragon House Publishers, ISBN 0913757438, page 167:
      Werner Erhard's highly successful est cult is partly derived from Scientology. Erhard had some experience with Scientology in 1969. Then he worked for a while in Mind Dynamics, itself an offshoot of Jose Silva's Mind Control.
    • 1996, John Ankerberg, John Weldon, Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, Harvest House Publishers, ISBN 978-1565071605, page 216:
      There are scores of modern religious cults and sects that have been influenced by Hinduism to varying degrees. Werner Erhard, founder of 'Landmark Education's 'The Forum',' and 'est' seminars, which have about 700,000 graduates, was influenced by Hinduism through Swami Muktananda, one of Erhard's principal gurus.
    • 1997, Len Oakes, “Followers and Their Quest”, in Prophetic charisma: The Psychology of Prophetic Charisma, Syracuse University Press, ISBN 0-8156-2700-9, page 137:
      Outsiders often criticize the extreme commitment of group members. But what is really happening is that leader and followers are conspiring to realize a vision that is falsified daily. For the cult is not paradise, and the leader is not God. Hence the follower is embattled; to squarely confront the many failings of the leader and the group is to call into question one's own great work. Only by daily recommitting himself can the follower continue to work toward his ultimate goal. Each follower works out a secret compromise, acknowledging some things while denying or distorting others. Clearly this is a high-risk strategy that may go awry.
    • 1998 June 17, Scott McLemee, “Rethinking Jonestown”, in[1]:
      The difference between a cult and an established religion is sometimes about one generation.
    • 1998 June 17, Scott McLemee, “Rethinking Jonestown”, in[2]:
      If Jones' People's Temple wasn't a cult, then the term has no meaning.
    • 2000, Jenkins, Philip, Mystics and Messiahs : Cults and New Religions in American History, London: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0195127447, page 180:
      Another potent element of the new cult milieu was the therapy sect, which offered believers the chance to achieve their full human potential through personal growth and self-actualization by taking total responsibility for one's actions. The prototypical movement of this kind was est (Erhard Seminar Training), in which intense and often grueling sessions forced followers to confront a new view of reality.
    • 2016 November 6, John Oliver, “Multilevel Marketing”, in Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, season 3, episode 29, HBO:
      He sounds like a cult leader about to demand his followers drink poison. And it frankly doesn't help that he looks like Jim Jones to a genuinely creepy degree.
  2. Devotion to a saint.
  3. (informal) A group of people having an obsession with or intense admiration for a particular activity, idea, person or thing.

Derived 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.

See also[edit]


cult (not comparable)

  1. Of or relating to a cult.
  2. Enjoyed by a small, loyal group.
    a cult horror movie

Usage notes[edit]

The term has a positive connotation for groups of art, music, writing, fiction, and fashion devotees, but a negative connotation for new religious, extreme political, questionable therapeutic, and pyramidal business groups.





cult m (plural cults)

  1. cult, religion



cult (plural cult, comparable)

  1. cult (enjoyed by a small, loyal group)