I'm a bit confused with the meaning of those words, this is what i got when i googled it:

Cumulative (adjective) : increasing by successive additions

Consecutive (adjective): following one after the other in order : SUCCESSIVE

However, It's still confusing for me, especially the meaning of 'successive additions'

Can anybody tell me the difference using simple and understandable examples? thanks


2 Answers 2


Consecutive: one after the other. For example, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are consecutive days of the week. Monday, Thursday, and Sunday are not consecutive.

Cumulative: adding up. For example, if I have a bucket that can hold ten liters of water, but I add three liters of water, then four more liters, then five more liters, the cumulative amount of water is too much for the bucket to hold. Any one amount could have been held by the bucket, but when I keep adding them ("successive additions"), it is too much.


Many bronze statues will have a bright spot from people rubbing the statue (wikipedia article). That bright spot is the cumulative effect of of thousands of fingers rubbing that spot over the years (ie., the wear is "increasing by successive additions", each rub "adding" some wear). Each consecutive person to rub the statue (ie., each rubber "one after the other") rubbed off a miniscule amount of the surface of the statue (probably not even enough to be measured, really). However: the cumulative effect of all of those fingers is a bright spot.

One "standard" drink has the same amount of alcohol, be it in 12 ounces of beer, 5 of wine, 1.5 of stronger spirits (note: this is a rough approximation; source). A healthy adult can process about 1 drink per hour (source). So: each consecutive drink will increase my blood alcohol content, and each consecutive hour will decrease my blood alcohol content by a roughly equal amount. Thus, my cumulative blood alcohol content is (again, to a rough approximation) equal to the number of drinks I've had minus the number of hours since the first drink (both of which reset when my blood alcohol content reaches zero). This is not medical or legal advice, and there are a huge number of fine details that this glosses over for ease of being an example.

There's an illustration of "eternity":

in lower pomerania is the diamond mountain, which is two miles high, two miles wide, and two miles deep. Every hundred years a little bird comes and sharpens its beak on it, and when the whole mountain is worn away by this, then the first second of eternity will be over.

Each consecutive beak-sharpening wears away slightly at the diamond mountain; the cumulative effect of those birds is to wear the mountain wholly away.

-- source (one of many variations, I'm sure)

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