wild·​cat | \ ˈwī(-ə)l(d)-ˌkat How to pronounce wildcat (audio) \
plural wildcats

Definition of wildcat

 (Entry 1 of 3)
1a : an Old World cat (Felis silvestris) that resembles but is heavier in build than the domestic tabby cat and is usually held to be among the ancestors of the domestic cat
b or plural wildcat : any of various small or medium-sized cats (such as the lynx or ocelot)
c : a feral domestic cat
2 : a savage quick-tempered person
3a : wildcat money
b : a wildcat oil or gas well
c : a wildcat strike


Definition of wildcat (Entry 2 of 3)
1a(1) : issued by a financially irresponsible banking establishment wildcat currency
(2) : financially irresponsible or unreliable wildcat banks
b : operating, produced, or carried on outside the bounds of standard or legitimate business practices wildcat insurance schemes— H. H. Reichard
c : of, relating to, or being an oil or gas well drilled in territory not known to be productive
d : initiated by a group of workers without formal union approval or in violation of a contract a wildcat strike wildcat work stoppages
2a of a cartridge : having a bullet of standard caliber but using an expanded case or a case designed for a bullet of greater caliber necked down for the smaller bullet
b of a firearm : using wildcat cartridges


wildcatted; wildcatting
Definition of wildcat (Entry 3 of 3)

intransitive verb

: to prospect and drill an experimental oil or gas well or sink a mine shaft in territory not known to be productive

Examples of wildcat in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun At Milpitas High School, Vea, who was 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds as a freshman, played running back, wildcat quarterback, middle linebacker, outside linebacker and defensive lineman. Eric Branch, San Francisco Chronicle, "Recovery complete, Bay Area's Vita Vea an unlikely Super Bowl participant," 3 Feb. 2021 Against the Patriots, a bad snap with running back Mark Ingram lined up in a wildcat formation on fourth-and-1 at the Baltimore 48-yard line resulted in an 11-yard loss. Mark Inabinett | Minabinett@al.com, al, "Ravens won’t make a snap decision on Bradley Bozeman’s 2021 position," 26 Jan. 2021 Pierce set up his touchdown by running 23 yards to the Jaguars’ 3 out of a wildcat formation on the previous play. oregonlive, "Watch: Former Oregon State star Artavis Pierce scores first NFL touchdown," 27 Dec. 2020 Nevada also scored on a 50-yard run by Taua out of the wildcat formation on fourth-and-1 after Tulane pulled within 19-7 in the first half. G Smith, NOLA.com, "Mashed Potato: Short-handed Tulane falls 38-27 to Nevada in bowl game," 22 Dec. 2020 On fourth-and-1, Seth Green replaced Morgan and lined up in wildcat formation. Eric Olson, chicagotribune.com, "Minnesota Gophers return from 3-week layoff and stun the Nebraska Huskers 24-17 while missing 33 players," 12 Dec. 2020 What may change these political calculations are the wildcat strikes that have frozen the basketball playoffs and the baseball season this week following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, "The Republicans Still Don’t Know How to Run Against Biden," 28 Aug. 2020 But De La Salle responded in the third quarter after going to a wildcat formation led by Ford. Keith Dunlap, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan high school football: Muskegon Mona Shores holds off De La Salle in Division 2," 22 Jan. 2021 But the Rams pulled to within 25-18 on a touchdown run by Akers from the wildcat formation, and a hook-and-ladder lateral play to Akers for a two-point conversion. Gary Klein Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "Rams’ season comes to an emotional end in playoff loss to Packers," 16 Jan. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective With traditional May Day labor marches curtailed by strict limits on public gatherings, Turkish protesters attempted to stage a wildcat demonstration. Elena Becatoros, Time, "Workers Globally Mark May Day as Unemployment Looms Amid Coronavirus Lockdowns," 1 May 2020 At Santa Cruz — where the protests began three months ago with a wildcat grading strike that ended in the dismissal of some student workers — students blocked entrances to campus. Nina Agrawal, Los Angeles Times, "UC graduate students threaten more strikes as movement grows," 7 Mar. 2020 In wildcat form, the .454 Casull has been around nearly as long as the .44 Magnum, but it wasn't popularized commercially until the late '90s. Field & Stream, "The 30 Best Handguns for Outdoorsmen," 17 Sep. 2019 With three tight ends in instead, wildcat quarterback Seth Green was stuffed on third and 2. Andy Greder, Twin Cities, "Gophers coach P.J. Fleck apologizes for how he “did not get it done” vs. Badgers," 1 Dec. 2019 Police and demonstrators clashed in at least six districts on Tuesday, with wildcat protests bringing chaos and disruption to neighborhoods on Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories. James Griffiths, CNN, "Man shot with live round in major escalation of Hong Kong protests," 1 Oct. 2019 One of the many attributes of the .308 Winchester is the fact that its case has served as the basis for a host of other cartridges of both the factory and wildcat variety. Mike Dickerson, Field & Stream, "10 Wildcat Calibers That Made the Grade," 22 Jan. 2020 The use of mercury in the wildcat camps results in devastating effects on health and the environment. Richard C. Paddock, New York Times, "In Indonesia, Outlaw Gold Miners Poison Themselves to Survive," 30 Dec. 2019 The Badgers run the ball on 65 percent of snaps and have added new wrinkles in jet sweeps and runs out of a wildcat formation in recent weeks. Andy Greder, Twin Cities, "Gophers football vs. Wisconsin: How to watch and who has the edge?," 28 Nov. 2019

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


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1838, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)


circa 1903, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for wildcat Time Traveler

The first known use of wildcat was in the 14th century

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Statistics for wildcat

Last Updated

2 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Wildcat.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wildcat. Accessed 9 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for wildcat



English Language Learners Definition of wildcat

: a kind of cat that lives in the wilderness


wild·​cat | \ ˈwīld-ˌkat How to pronounce wildcat (audio) \

Kids Definition of wildcat

: a wild animal (as an ocelot or lynx) of the cat family that is of small or medium size

More from Merriam-Webster on wildcat

Nglish: Translation of wildcat for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about wildcat

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