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[kuhl-prit] /ˈkʌl prɪt/
a person or other agent guilty of or responsible for an offense or fault.
a person arraigned for an offense.
Origin of culprit
1670-80; traditionally explained as cul (representing Latin culpābilis guilty) + prit (representing Anglo-French prest ready), marking the prosecution as ready to prove the defendant's guilt. See culpable, presto Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for culprit
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • There was a refreshing novelty in this case, where one of themselves was the culprit.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • I passed through the gossiping crowd with bread and water for my culprit.

  • She looked like a culprit whom direst vengeance had overtaken at last.

    Meadow Grass Alice Brown
  • No culprit was ever required to bear witness against himself!

    Salted With Fire George MacDonald
  • The misunderstanding was an unfortunate affair for the culprit.

    Homeward Bound James Fenimore Cooper
British Dictionary definitions for culprit


(law) a person awaiting trial, esp one who has pleaded not guilty
the person responsible for a particular offence, misdeed, etc
Word Origin
C17: from Anglo-French cul-, short for culpable guilty + prit ready, indicating that the prosecution was ready to prove the guilt of the one charged
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for culprit

1670s, from Anglo-French cul prit, contraction of Culpable: prest (d'averrer nostre bille) "guilty, ready (to prove our case)," words used by prosecutor in opening a trial. It seems the abbreviation cul. prit was mistaken in English for an address to the defendant.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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