ul·​ti·​ma·​tum | \ ˌəl-tə-ˈmā-təm How to pronounce ultimatum (audio) , -ˈmä- How to pronounce ultimatum (audio) \
plural ultimatums or ultimata\ ˌəl-​tə-​ˈmā-​tə How to pronounce ultimatum (audio) , -​ˈmä-​ \

Definition of ultimatum

: a final proposition, condition, or demand especially : one whose rejection will end negotiations and cause a resort to force or other direct action

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An ultimatum is usually issued by a stronger power to a weaker one, since it wouldn't carry much weight if the one giving the ultimatum couldn't back up its threat. Near the end of World War II, the Allied powers issued an ultimatum to Japan: surrender completely or face the consequences. Japan rejected the ultimatum, and within days the U.S. had dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing some 200,000 people.

Examples of ultimatum in a Sentence

She was given an ultimatum—work harder or lose her job. issued the ultimatum that the project be finished by the following week, or it would be terminated
Recent Examples on the Web Ted gives Krystal an ultimatum, and Rok has a family emergency. Washington Post, 21 Mar. 2022 Earlier this week, Young, 76, reportedly demanded his management team and record label give Spotify an ultimatum between his music and Rogan's podcast, posting an open letter to his website Monday that appears to have since been deleted. Nicholas Rice, PEOPLE.com, 29 Jan. 2022 The agency demanded that the UK government sell its stake in OneWeb, and that the company guarantee the satellites would not be used for military purposes, according to an ultimatum spelled out on Twitter from Roscosmos' offical account. Jackie Wattles And Jennifer Korn, CNN, 21 Mar. 2022 The ultimatum, issued through Russian state media, came after Russian forces had entered every neighborhood in Mariupol, a strategically valuable city on Ukraine’s southeastern coast. Washington Post, 16 Mar. 2022 First to choose is Shanique, who gave the ultimatum to her original partner, Randall. Alamin Yohannes, EW.com, 6 Apr. 2022 In 1985, Aebi's father gave her an ultimatum: Go to college or sail solo around the world. The Week Staff, The Week, 4 Apr. 2022 On Sunday, Russia gave an ultimatum that Ukrainian fighters in the city must give up, or face annihilation. Valerie Hopkins, New York Times, 21 Mar. 2022 And sure enough, the city gave him an ultimatum — leave the state’s medical cannabis program or don’t bother coming to work. The Salt Lake Tribune, 8 Feb. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ultimatum.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of ultimatum

1731, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ultimatum

New Latin, from Medieval Latin, neuter of ultimatus final

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The first known use of ultimatum was in 1731

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Last Updated

9 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Ultimatum.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ultimatum. Accessed 20 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for ultimatum


ul·​ti·​ma·​tum | \ ˌəl-tə-ˈmā-təm How to pronounce ultimatum (audio) \
plural ultimatums or ultimata\ -​ˈmā-​tə \

Kids Definition of ultimatum

: a final condition or demand that if rejected could end future negotiations and lead to forceful or undesirable action

More from Merriam-Webster on ultimatum

Nglish: Translation of ultimatum for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ultimatum for Arabic Speakers


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