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[uhl-tuh-mey-tuh m, -mah-] /ˌʌl təˈmeɪ təm, -ˈmɑ-/
noun, plural ultimatums, ultimata
[uhl-tuh-mey-tuh, -mah-] /ˌʌl təˈmeɪ tə, -ˈmɑ-/ (Show IPA)
a final, uncompromising demand or set of terms issued by a party to a dispute, the rejection of which may lead to a severance of relations or to the use of force.
a final proposal or statement of conditions.
Origin of ultimatum
1725-35; < New Latin, noun use of neuter of Late Latin ultimātus. See ultimate
Can be confused
ultimate, ultimatum. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for ultimatum
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Our ultimatum was despatched to Suna on the very day on which we received this sad news.

    Freeland Theodor Hertzka
  • For the United States it is a record of honor; for Europe it is an ultimatum.

  • The captain's parting remark was in the nature of an ultimatum.

    The Portygee Joseph Crosby Lincoln
  • Then she called her daughter to her and issued an ultimatum.

    The Portygee Joseph Crosby Lincoln
  • Then without pause he turned on Sunny and delivered his ultimatum.

British Dictionary definitions for ultimatum


noun (pl) -tums, -ta (-tə)
a final communication by a party, esp a government, setting forth conditions on which it insists, as during negotiations on some topic
any final or peremptory demand, offer, or proposal
Word Origin
C18: from New Latin, neuter of ultimatusultimate
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
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Word Origin and History for ultimatum

1731, from Modern Latin, from Medieval Latin adjective ultimatum "last possible, final," from Latin ultimatum, neuter of ultimatus (see ultimate). Hamilton and others use the Latin plural ultimata. In slang c.1820s, ultimatum was used for "the buttocks."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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ultimatum in Culture
ultimatum [(ul-tuh-may-tuhm)]

A formal message delivered from one government to another threatening war if the receiving government fails to comply with conditions set forth in the message. For example, after the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand in 1914, the government of Austria sent an ultimatum to Serbia, which Austria held responsible for the assassination.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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