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[wahyld-kahrd] /ˈwaɪldˌkɑrd/
of, constituting, or including a wild card.
Informal. of, being, or including an unpredictable or unproven element, person, item, etc.
Sports. of, being, or including an unseeded or unproven participant or team, as a team in a championship tournament that has not placed first in its league or area.
Origin of wild-card
First recorded in 1955-60

wild card

Cards. a card having its value decided by the wishes of the players.
a determining or important person or thing whose qualities are unknown, indeterminate, or unpredictable:
In a sailboat race the weather is the wild card.
Tennis. a player, usually without ranking, who is allowed to enter a tournament at the discretion of the tournament committee after regularly qualifying competitors have been selected.
First recorded in 1530-40 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for wild-card

wild card

See wild (sense 14)
(sport) a player or team that has not qualified for a competition but is allowed to take part, at the organizers' discretion, after all the regular places have been taken
an unpredictable element in a situation
(computing) a symbol that can represent any character or group of characters, as in a filename
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 wild-card

wild card


1927, in figurative sense, from literal use in poker, from wild (adj.) + card (n.). Sports team sense first recorded 1959.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for wild-card

wild card


: the wild-card slot/ last year's wildcard team

noun phrase

  1. Something outside of the normal rules, category, etc; an unpredictable thing, event, etc: Being from Princeton wasn't like being from Jersey, it was a wild card (1920s+ Card games)
  2. A team picked for a playoff by some more or less arbitrary method, not having won its championship during the season: We can always hope the Lions will be the wild card (1950s+ Sports)

[fr poker and other games, where in some cases one or more wild cards, having any value the player desires, may be designated]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with wild-card

wild card

An unpredictable person or event, as in Don't count on his support—he's a wild card, or A traffic jam? That's a wild card we didn't expect. This expression comes from card games, especially poker, where it refers to a card that can stand for any rank chosen by the player who holds it. The term was adopted in sports for an additional player or team chosen to take part in a contest after the regular places have been taken. It is also used in computer terminology for a symbol that stands for one or more characters in searches for files that share a common specification. Its figurative use dates from the mid-1900s.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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