from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.
  • n. The followers of such a religion or sect.
  • n. A system or community of religious worship and ritual.
  • n. The formal means of expressing religious reverence; religious ceremony and ritual.
  • n. A usually nonscientific method or regimen claimed by its originator to have exclusive or exceptional power in curing a particular disease.
  • n. Obsessive, especially faddish, devotion to or veneration for a person, principle, or thing.
  • n. The object of such devotion.
  • n. An exclusive group of persons sharing an esoteric, usually artistic or intellectual interest.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. 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.
  • n. Devotion to a saint.
  • adj. Of, or relating to a cult.
  • adj. Enjoyed by a small, loyal group.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Attentive care; homage; worship.
  • n. A system of religious belief and worship.
  • n. A system of intense religious veneration of a particular person, idea, or object, especially one considered spurious or irrational by traditional religious bodies.
  • n. The group of individuals who adhere to a cult (senses 2 or 3).
  • n. A strong devotion or interest in a particular person, idea or thing without religious associations, or the people holding such an interest.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Homage; worship; by extension, devoted attention to or veneration for a particular person or thing: as, the Shaksperian cult.
  • n. A system of religious belief and worship; especially, the rites and ceremonies employed in worship. Also cultus.
  • n. A subject of devoted attention or study; that in which one is earnestly or absorbingly interested.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. followers of an exclusive system of religious beliefs and practices
  • n. followers of an unorthodox, extremist, or false religion or sect who often live outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader
  • n. a system of religious beliefs and rituals
  • n. a religion or sect that is generally considered to be unorthodox, extremist, or false
  • n. an interest followed with exaggerated zeal


Latin cultus, worship, from past participle of colere, to cultivate; see kwel-1 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From French culte, from Latin cultus ("care, adoration; cult"), from colō ("cultivate; protect"). (Wiktionary)


  • To use the term cult too casually risks tarring the merely unconventional, for which America has long been a safe harbor.

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  • For the first time ever, the term cult came to her mind.

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  • That's the question former BB guestblogger Occult America, recently tackled in the Wall Street Journal: To use the term cult too casually risks tarring the merely unconventional, for which America has long been a safe harbor.

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  • ‡ The term cult often suggests extreme beliefs and bizarre behavior.


  • Sociologists started using the word cult with some regularity in the 1970s, to distinguish emerging groups like the

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  • Academics largely abandoned the word cult in the 1980s.

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  • Likewise, the term "cult" in current popular usage usually refers to a group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre. Top headlines

  • KING: It was in a conversation with reporters after that Dr. Jeffress used the term cult.

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  • According to, Miscavige, everyone who criticises the cult is a crook or, as he puts it in R&R, “We do not find critics of Scientology who do not have criminal backgrounds.”

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  • And yet, you completely understand the source of their ignorance — the word "cult" is thrown around in reference to the fundamentalist LDS.

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  • Don't join dangerous cults, practice safe sects!

    October 21, 2008