noun1 : one accused of or charged with a crime 2 : one guilty of a crime or a fault 3 : the source or cause of a problem
After the empty warehouse burned down, an investigation determined faulty wiring to be the culprit.
“Police searched a parking structure in the Mid-City area of Los Angeles Saturday for one of two armed suspects who robbed a pedestrian but were unable to locate the culprit.” — Los Angeles Daily News, August 2, 2014
Did you know?
We would be culpable if we didn’t clearly explain the origins behind culprit. Yes, it is related to culpable, which itself derives from Latin culpare, meaning “to blame,” via Middle English and Anglo-French. But the etymology of culprit is not so straightforward. In Anglo-French, culpable meant “guilty,” and this was abbreviated “cul.” in legal briefs and texts. Culprit was formed by combining this abbreviation with prest, prit, meaning “ready”—that is, ready to prove an accusation. Literally, then, a culprit was one who was ready to be proven guilty. English then borrowed the word for one accused of a wrongdoing.