• (noun): 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.
  • (noun): The followers of such a religion or sect.
  • (noun): A system or community of religious worship and ritual.
  • (noun): The formal means of expressing religious reverence; religious ceremony and ritual.
  • (noun): A usually nonscientific method or regimen claimed by its originator to have exclusive or exceptional power in curing a particular disease.
  • (noun): Obsessive, especially faddish, devotion to or veneration for a person, principle, or thing.
  • (noun): The object of such devotion.
  • (noun): An exclusive group of persons sharing an esoteric, usually artistic or intellectual interest.

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Wordnet definitions

  • (noun): a system of religious beliefs and rituals; "devoted to the cultus of the Blessed Virgin"
  • (noun): a religion or sect that is generally considered to be unorthodox, extremist, or false; "it was a satanic cult"
  • (noun): followers of an unorthodox, extremist, or false religion or sect who often live outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader
  • (noun): an interest followed with exaggerated zeal; "he always follows the latest fads"; "it was all the rage that season"
  • (noun): followers of an exclusive system of beliefs and practices

Look up "cult" to find its meanings and associations with other words and concepts


The term cult usually refers to a social group defined by its religious, spiritual, or philosophical beliefs, or its common interest in a particular personality, object or goal. The term itself is controversial and it has divergent definitions in both popular culture and academia and it also has been an ongoing source of contention among scholars across several fields of study. In the sociological classifications of religious movements, a cult is a social group with socially deviant or novel beliefs and practices, although this is often unclear. Other researchers present a less-organized picture of cults saying that they arise spontaneously around novel beliefs and practices. Groups said to be cults range in size from local groups with a few members to international organizations with millions.Beginning in the 1930s, cults became the object of sociological study in the context of the study of religious behavior. From the 1940s the Christian countercult movement has opposed some sects and new religious movements, and it labelled them as cults for their \"un-Christian\" unorthodox beliefs. The secular anti-cult movement began in the 1970s and it opposed certain groups, often charging them with mind control and partly motivated in reaction to acts of violence committed by some of their members. Some of the claims and actions of the anti-cult movement have been disputed by scholars and by the news media, leading to further public controversy.
The term \"new religious movement\" refers to religions which have appeared since the mid-1800s. Many, but not all of them, have been considered to be cults. Sub-categories of cults include: Doomsday cults, personality cults, political cults, destructive cults, racist cults, polygamist cults, and terrorist cults. Various national governments have reacted to cult-related issues in different ways, and this has sometimes led to controversy.

Example Sentences

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

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

  • 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.

  • ‡ 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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