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[kyoo-myuh-luh-tiv, -ley-tiv] /ˈkyu myə lə tɪv, -ˌleɪ tɪv/
increasing or growing by accumulation or successive additions:
the cumulative effect of one rejection after another.
formed by or resulting from accumulation or the addition of successive parts or elements.
of or relating to interest or dividends that, if not paid when due, become a prior claim for payment in the future:
cumulative preferred stocks.
Origin of cumulative
First recorded in 1595-1605; cumulate + -ive
Related forms
cumulatively, adverb
cumulativeness, noun
uncumulative, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for cumulative
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Aunt Melissa had lashed herself into a cumulative passion of words.

    Meadow Grass Alice Brown
  • Phoebe's indignation was cumulative always, and was now bubbling into wrath.

    Good Indian B. M. Bower
  • The evidence had been cumulative but was no longer questionable.

    Ruggles of Red Gap Harry Leon Wilson
  • From a political standpoint its history is one of cumulative disaster.

    Chinese Painters Raphael Petrucci
  • Elfride's emotion was cumulative, and after a while would assert itself on a sudden.

    A Pair of Blue Eyes Thomas Hardy
British Dictionary definitions for cumulative


growing in quantity, strength, or effect by successive additions or gradual steps: cumulative pollution
gained by or resulting from a gradual building up: cumulative benefits
  1. (of preference shares) entitling the holder to receive any arrears of dividend before any dividend is distributed to ordinary shareholders
  2. (of dividends or interest) intended to be accumulated if not paid when due
  1. (of a frequency) including all values of a variable either below or above a specified value
  2. (of error) tending to increase as the sample size is increased
Derived Forms
cumulatively, adverb
cumulativeness, noun
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 cumulative

c.1600, from Latin cumulatus, past participle of cumulare "to heap," from cumulus "heap" (see cumulus) + -ive.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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cumulative in Medicine

cumulative cu·mu·la·tive (kyōōm'yə-lā'tĭv, -yə-lə-tĭv)

  1. Increasing or enlarging by successive addition.

  2. Acquired by or resulting from accumulation.

  3. Of or relating to the sum of the frequencies of experimentally determined values of a random variable that are less than or equal to a specified value.

  4. Of or relating to experimental error that increases in magnitude with each successive measurement.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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