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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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 Leno nor Fox would confirm that ultimatum to Variety upon request. Stephanie Toone, ajc, "‘In my heart I knew it was wrong’ | Jay Leno apologizes for mocking Asians in his jokes," 25 Mar. 2021 In contrast, approximately 15,000 troops were dispatched to Mexico’s northern border alone after Trump’s 2019 ultimatum. Washington Post, "In Mexico, Biden team asks for more help stopping irregular migration," 3 Jan. 2021 Ishbia's ultimatum could cause problems for Quicken's plans to continue expanding its business beyond direct-to-consumer mortgages by doing more business with mortgage brokers. Jc Reindl, Detroit Free Press, "UWM CEO issues ultimatum, escalates war against Rocket Companies," 4 Mar. 2021 Russia is giving President Vladimir Putin critic Alexei Navalny an ultimatum to fly back immediately to Moscow or risk imprisonment. Mica Soellner, Washington Examiner, "Russia threatens to jail Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny if he does not immediately return," 28 Dec. 2020 Finalists Hannah Ann Sluss, Madison Prewett, and Victoria Fuller shared a hotel room in Australia for Fantasy Suites after Victoria's now-infamous celibacy ultimatum. Ariana Romero, refinery29.com, "The Bachelorette Found A Hellish New Way To Talk About Sex," 22 Dec. 2020 The ultimatum was, like so many aspects of Trumpism, simultaneously cartoonish and dangerous. Megan Garber, The Atlantic, "Donald Trump’s ‘Pussy’ Presidency," 17 Jan. 2021 In talks with the President-elect Joe Biden's administration, Israel will argue that accepting an Iranian ultimatum on the JCPOA would be seen by U.S. allies in the Middle East as a dangerous capitulation. Zev Chafets, Star Tribune, "Biden's next crisis: Nuclear weapons in Iran," 14 Jan. 2021 With that ultimatum rejected, Democrats moved ahead with impeachment in record time, bypassing the traditional Judiciary Committee hearings. Tom Benning, Dallas News, "House impeaches Trump for inciting insurrection, one week after riot at Capitol," 13 Jan. 2021

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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Time Traveler for ultimatum

Time Traveler

The first known use of ultimatum was in 1731

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Statistics for ultimatum

Last Updated

3 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ultimatum.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ultimatum. Accessed 15 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for ultimatum



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 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

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