wild card

or wild·card

[ wahyld-kahrd ]
See synonyms for wild card on Thesaurus.com
  1. Cards. a card having its value decided by the wishes of the players.

  2. a determining or important person or thing whose qualities are unknown, indeterminate, or unpredictable: In a sailboat race the weather is the wild card.

  1. Sports. an unranked or unproven player or team that is allowed to enter a tournament after regularly qualifying competitors have been selected: The committee added several retired champions as wild cards in the tennis championships.

  2. Digital Technology. a symbol in a search parameter, usually the asterisk or question mark, that will retrieve all results for another character or other characters in its position: The file search is case-sensitive, and wildcards are not supported.

Origin of wild card

First recorded in 1530–40

Words Nearby wild card

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use wild card in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for wild card

wild card

  1. 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

  1. an unpredictable element in a situation

  2. 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

Other 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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.