ul·ti·ma·tum | \ˌəl-tə-ˈmā-təm, -ˈmä- \
plural ultimatums or ultimata\ˌəl-tə-ˈmā-tə, -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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Did You Know?

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

After two Republican chairmen issued an ultimatum on Wednesday, Ms. Page was scheduled to take part in a private deposition on Friday and Monday. Nicholas Fandos, New York Times, "F.B.I. Agent Defends Actions in Russia Inquiry in Contentious House Testimony," 12 July 2018 Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis has issued a warning to Chinese clubs on club legend Marek Hamsik’s valuation by issuing an ultimatum on his price. SI.com, "Napoli President Issues Ultimatum on Marek Hamsik Transfer Fee With Asian Clubs Interested," 23 June 2018 The announcement came after the Syrian government on Wednesday issued a three-day ultimatum to the Army of Islam group to leave Douma or face an all-out offensive. Sarah El Deeb And Robert Burns, BostonGlobe.com, "US service member killed in Syria attack, official says," 30 Mar. 2018 Her fear came out almost like an ultimatum to him. ... The Washington Post, NOLA.com, "Jay-Z opens up to David Letterman about cheating on Beyonce and his mother's sexuality," 7 Apr. 2018 Hartwig, who managed mutual funds for the bank, said his supervisors gave him an ultimatum in June to leave the treasurer's race or leave his position with U.S. Bank in Milwaukee. Molly Beck, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin treasurer candidate says he was fired from banking job after mounting campaign," 9 July 2018 Their bitterness toward each other has escalated, and now my son has given me an ultimatum: Choose between his family or my friend. Abigail Van Buren, Houston Chronicle, "Disapproving son tries to put an end to mother’s romance," 3 July 2018 Now with Snyder on his way out and the future of partnership districts up to Whiston's successor, lawmakers have successfully slipped in an ultimatum to ensure accountability. Alice Yin, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan's new education budget could mean looming school closures," 30 June 2018 Still in the thick of the case, Mohiuddin said the city effectively gave him an ultimatum: build the 12-foot fence or lose parking privileges. Lily Altavena, azcentral, "Hitching Post Saloon owner sues Apache Junction, alleging racial discrimination," 29 June 2018

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.

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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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Statistics for ultimatum

Last Updated

22 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for ultimatum

The first known use of ultimatum was in 1731

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English Language Learners Definition of ultimatum

: a final threat : a promise that force or punishment will be used if someone does not do what is wanted


ul·ti·ma·tum | \ˌəl-tə-ˈmā-təm \
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

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