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culprit Line breaks: cul|prit
Pronunciation: /ˈkʌlprɪt/

Definition of culprit in English:


1A person who is responsible for a crime or other misdeed: the car’s front nearside door had been smashed in but the culprits had fled
More example sentences
  • The culprits behaved like seasoned thugs but claimed that they were guardians of law and order.
  • Police and all concerned parties are working together to bring the culprit or culprits to justice.
  • He alerted a police patrol at the top of the road and officers quickly arrived, by which time the culprits had fled.
guilty party, offender, wrongdoer, person responsible;
informal baddy, bad guy, wrong 'un, crook, crim
archaic miscreant
1.1The cause of a problem or defect: low-level ozone pollution is the real culprit
More example sentences
  • But she said supermarkets were the real culprits for selling alcohol to under-age drinkers.
  • The real culprit is poverty, disease and starvation.
  • The real culprit is the unchecked fragmentation of land holdings in the rural areas.


Late 17th century (originally in the formula Culprit, how will you be tried?, said by the Clerk of the Crown to a prisoner pleading not guilty): perhaps from a misinterpretation of the written abbreviation cul. prist for Anglo-Norman French Culpable: prest d'averrer notre bille '(You are) guilty: (We are) ready to prove our indictment'; in later use influenced by Latin culpa 'fault, blame'.

  • Formerly in England, when a prisoner in court pleaded not guilty the Clerk of the Crown said: ‘Culprit, how will you be tried?’ This expression, first recorded in 1678, may have started out as a mistake in reading the written abbreviation cul. prist., which stood for Old French Culpable: prest d'averrer notre bille, ‘(You are) guilty: (We are) ready to prove our indictment.’ Cul prit (later culprit) came to mean ‘a guilty person’. Use may have been influenced by culpable (Middle English) which comes from Latin culpa ‘fault, blame’.

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