[ kuhl-tuh-veyt ]
/ ˈkʌl təˌveɪt /
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See synonyms for: cultivate / cultivated / cultivates / cultivating on Thesaurus.com

verb (used with object), cul·ti·vat·ed, cul·ti·vat·ing.



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Origin of cultivate

1610–20; <Medieval Latin cultīvātus (past participle of cultīvāre to till), equivalent to cultīv(us) (Latin cult(us), past participle of colere to care for, till (cf. cult) + -īvus-ive) + -ātus-ate1


o·ver·cul·ti·vate, verb (used with object), o·ver·cul·ti·vat·ed, o·ver·cul·ti·vat·ing.pre·cul·ti·vate, verb (used with object), pre·cul·ti·vat·ed, pre·cul·ti·vat·ing.re·cul·ti·vate, verb (used with object), re·cul·ti·vat·ed, re·cul·ti·vat·ing.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


What does cultivate mean?

When used literally, cultivate means to take steps to grow something or improve its growth, especially crops. When used figuratively, it means much the same thing, except that the thing being grown or improved is often an abstract thing, such as a business or a friendship.

The literal sense of cultivate is most often used in the context of agriculture, but it can also refer to things being grown in a laboratory. Its figurative sense can apply to many different things, such as relationships, skills, and even cultures.

Example: Farmers have cultivated a variety of crops in this region.

Where does cultivate come from?

The first records of the word cultivate come from around 1600. It grew out of the Medieval Latin word cultīvātus, which ultimately derives from the Latin verb colere, meaning “to till,” “to toil over,” “to care for,” or “to worship.” Colere is also the basis of the words cult, culture, and agriculture, among many others.

To cultivate isn’t just to grow something. It’s to prepare and work for its growth, and to tend to it as it grows. Cultivating the land for crops often first involves tilling (or plowing) it. (A machine that does this is called a cultivator). It also involves planting seeds and then watering them and making sure they are growing properly. When crops and plants are cultivated, they are taken care of until they are ready to be harvested. When something is cultivated in a lab, it means an organism is grown (or cultured) in a controlled environment.

You can see why this process is used as a metaphor for growing something like a friendship. To cultivate a friendship, you have to first gain someone’s trust, and then continue to build the relationship until it blossoms, so to speak. The word cultivate is often applied to the idea of building such relationships. Journalists cultivate their sources by building trust with them. Businesspeople cultivate their contacts the same way.

Other things can be cultivated, such as skills, interests, or even cultures. In every case, care must be taken so that such things can take root and continue to thrive.

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What are some other forms related to cultivate?

  • cultivation (noun)
  • cultivator (noun)
  • overcultivate (verb)
  • precultivate (verb)
  • recultivate (verb)

What are some synonyms for cultivate?

What are some words that share a root or word element with cultivate


What are some words that often get used in discussing cultivate?


How is cultivate used in real life?

Cultivate is most commonly used in a literal sense in the context of agriculture to refer to growing crops. But it is also used in many different figurative ways.



Try using cultivate!

Which of the following words is an antonym (opposite) of cultivate?

A. tend
B. generate
C. neglect
D. manage

Example sentences from the Web for cultivate

British Dictionary definitions for cultivate

/ (ˈkʌltɪˌveɪt) /

verb (tr)

to till and prepare (land or soil) for the growth of crops
to plant, tend, harvest, or improve (plants) by labour and skill
to break up (land or soil) with a cultivator or hoe
to improve or foster (the mind, body, etc) as by study, education, or labour
to give special attention toto cultivate a friendship; to cultivate a hobby
to give or bring culture to (a person, society, etc); civilize

Word Origin for cultivate

C17: from Medieval Latin cultivāre to till, from Old French cultiver, from Medieval Latin cultīvus cultivable, from Latin cultus cultivated, from colere to till, toil over
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