Definition of culprit noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//ˈkʌlprɪt//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈkʌlprɪt//
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  1. 1a person who has done something wrong or against the law The police quickly identified the real culprits. Police hunting the culprits have condemned the attack.
  2. 2a person or thing responsible for causing a problem The main culprit in the current crisis seems to be modern farming techniques. Keep the kitchen clear of all sources of bacteria, not forgetting the biggest culprit of all—the dishcloth.
  3. Word Originlate 17th cent. (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’.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: culprit