wild card


Definition of wild card 

1 : an unknown or unpredictable factor

2 : one picked to fill a leftover playoff or tournament berth after regularly qualifying competitors have all been determined

3 usually wildcard \ˈwī(-ə)l(d)-ˌkärd \ : 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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

There’s another wild card at play that could impact a possible work action at UPS: Donald Trump. Chris Morris, Fortune, "What Was It Like the Last Time UPS Went On Strike? And What's Different Today?," 7 June 2018 Trespassers, though, represent an unnerving wild card, rail officials say. Tony Bizjak, sacbee, "Capitol Corridor trains have been running late. It’s not because of freight traffic | The Sacramento Bee," 14 Apr. 2018 The rise of self-driving cars throws an added wild card into the mix, says Mr. Cooke at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington. Laurent Belsie, The Christian Science Monitor, "Trump's challenge to fuel-efficient car standards: an uphill battle," 3 Apr. 2018 The economy also faces a wild card in the tariffs being imposed on China. Josh Boak, chicagotribune.com, "U.S. added 213,000 jobs in June; unemployment rose to 4 percent," 6 July 2018 Baseball’s next-longest drought belongs to the Marlins, who haven’t made it since winning the World Series as a wild card in 2003. Noah Trister, The Seattle Times, "AL East, AL West races in rarified air so far," 2 July 2018 The team ended up 11-5 and made the playoffs as a wild card. Scott Fowler, charlotteobserver, "Here are the 5 dumbest predictions I ever made as an Observer sports columnist," 29 June 2018 But 30% identify as independents, throwing a wild card into the mix. Marisa Agha, latimes.com, "As Arizona approaches midterm election, Native Americans look to increase clout," 12 June 2018 That August, Shapovalov had competed well enough to earn a wild card into the Rogers Cup in Montreal. Chloé Cooper Jones, GQ, "Denis Shapovalov Is the Thrilling, Gutsy Teen of Tennis," 25 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'wild card.' 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 wild card

1971, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for wild card

wild card, playing card with arbitrarily determined value

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Statistics for wild card

Last Updated

11 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for wild card

The first known use of wild card was in 1971

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More Definitions for wild card

wild card


English Language Learners Definition of wild card

: a playing card that can represent any other card in a game

: a person or thing that could affect a situation in a way that cannot be predicted : an unknown or unpredictable factor

sports : a player or team chosen to fill a place in a competition after the regularly qualified players or teams have all been decided

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Comments on wild card

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


to reject or criticize sharply

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