[kyoo-myuh-luh-tiv, -ley-tiv]


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 formscu·mu·la·tive·ly, adverbcu·mu·la·tive·ness, nounun·cu·mu·la·tive, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for cumulative

Contemporary Examples of cumulative

Historical Examples of cumulative

  • 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.

British Dictionary definitions for cumulative



growing in quantity, strength, or effect by successive additions or gradual stepscumulative pollution
gained by or resulting from a gradual building upcumulative 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 Formscumulatively, adverbcumulativeness, 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

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

cumulative in Medicine


[kyōōmyə-lā′tĭv, -lə-tĭv]


Increasing or enlarging by successive addition.
Acquired by or resulting from accumulation.
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.
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.