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 ultimata (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

Eventually, Michael Bochicchio, the owner the wrestling school where Tessa was training, gave her an ultimatum. Nick Talbot, ExpressNews.com, "The Born Legend: Tessa Blanchard forging her own path," 4 July 2019 In August 2018, Warmington told Du Bois that she had been given an ultimatum either to resign her post or be fired, and that Du Bois needed to make a decision about her academic and athletic future, according to the lawsuit. Adelie Bergstrom, Twin Cities, "Former UMD athlete sues school, alleging retaliation for supporting her accused coach," 26 June 2019 Any advice on this situation? – Caught in the Middle Dear Caught: The whole point of an ultimatum is to present a clear choice, surrounded by natural consequences. Amy Dickinson, Detroit Free Press, "Parents want boyfriend to go, daughter follows," 25 June 2019 With its ultimatum—negotiate or face military action—Mr. Raja Abdulrahim, WSJ, "Syria Pressures U.S.-Backed Kurds to Hand Over Control," 22 Aug. 2018 There is a decent chance that issuing an ultimatum will actually make things worse. Carolyn L. Todd, SELF, "5 Helpful Things to Say to a Friend Who Self-Harms (and 3 to Avoid)," 1 Mar. 2019 Barcelona have given Antoine Griezmann an ultimatum on his future, as their summer transfer policy depends on whether or not the Frenchman moves to the Nou Camp. SI.com, "Barcelona Set Ultimatum for Antoine Griezmann as They Start Summer Transfer Planning," 3 June 2018 McCain’s ultimatum prodded Defense Secretary James Mattis to promptly pay a visit to the office of the Armed Services Committee Chairman. Chad Pergram, Fox News, "An empty US Capitol after McCain’s death is sobering reminder that the clock is ticking," 28 Aug. 2018 Speaking of couples making up, Jordan gives Jenna an ultimatum. Anna Moeslein, Glamour, "Bachelor in Paradise Season 5, Episode 6 Recap: Goodbye, Kenny," 27 Aug. 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

14 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

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 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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Comments on ultimatum

What made you want to look up ultimatum? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something desired as essential

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