wild card


: an unknown or unpredictable factor
: one picked to fill a leftover playoff or tournament berth after regularly qualifying competitors have all been determined
usually wildcard : a symbol (such as ? or *) used in a keyword database search to represent the presence of zero, one, or more than one unspecified characters

Examples of wild card in a Sentence

The joker is a wild card. Taxes are the wild card in this election. The team made it into the play-offs as the wild card.
Recent Examples on the Web Schumaker is well regarded around baseball and was universally praised for guiding the Marlins to an 84-78 record and a wild card berth in 2023; Miami was quickly eliminated by Philadelphia in the first round. Jordan McPherson, Miami Herald, 9 Apr. 2024 Yet another factor is the movement of fluid within the Earth’s liquid inner core — a wild card that can either speed or slow how fast the Earth rotates, Agnew said. Evan Bush, NBC News, 27 Mar. 2024 But double haters are also a wild card for Trump, whose divisiveness turns many of them off. USA TODAY, 23 Mar. 2024 Minnesota entered the night six points behind Vegas for the final wild card in the Western Conference. Houston Mitchell, Los Angeles Times, 15 Mar. 2024 And who knows what kind of butterfly effect a loss there might have had in the tight NL wild card race, where, counting tiebreakers, the Diamondbacks finished two games ahead of the seventh-place Cubs? Jerry Beach, Forbes, 27 Mar. 2024 Halep was awarded a wild card spot to take part in the Miami Open shortly afterwards, a decision 2018 Australian Open winner Caroline Wozniacki criticized. Ben Morse, CNN, 20 Mar. 2024 But there is one wild card factor: California’s secretary of state is challenging a court ruling that allowed Fong to run for Congress despite already being on the ballot for reelection to the state Assembly. Nathaniel Rakich, ABC News, 18 Mar. 2024 The Devils' third win in four games moved them two points behind Detroit in the race for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference and five behind the Flyers for the third place in the Metropolitan Division. Tom Canavan, USA TODAY, 18 Feb. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'wild card.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


wild card, playing card with arbitrarily determined value

First Known Use

1971, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of wild card was in 1971

Dictionary Entries Near wild card

Cite this Entry

“Wild card.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wild%20card. Accessed 15 Apr. 2024.

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