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See more synonyms for culprit on Thesaurus.com
  1. a person or other agent guilty of or responsible for an offense or fault.
  2. a person arraigned for an offense.
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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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for culprit

miscreant, offender, fugitive, felon, wrongdoer, criminal, malefactor, delinquent, evildoer, rascal, convict, con, jailbird, transgressor, yardbird, sinner

Examples from the Web for culprit

Contemporary Examples of culprit

Historical Examples of culprit

  • 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


  1. law a person awaiting trial, esp one who has pleaded not guilty
  2. the person responsible for a particular offence, misdeed, etc
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Word Origin for culprit

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

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper