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 Following his big play, Pittsburgh used ran some wildcat, drove into field goal range and Chris Boswell hit a 39-yard kick, cutting Cleveland’s lead to seven. Ellis L. Williams, cleveland, "Freddie Kitchens wants his cornerbacks to ‘attack the ball’ more, so what went wrong for the Browns secondary in Pittsburgh?," 3 Dec. 2019 But that effort has backfired in Indonesia, where illicit backyard manufacturers have sprung up to supply wildcat miners and replace mercury that was previously imported from abroad. Richard C. Paddock, New York Times, "The Hidden Cost of Gold: Birth Defects and Brain Damage," 9 Nov. 2019 The Cougars found some success with wide receiver Bryson Smith running the offense from a wildcat formation but generally struggled to advance the ball. Alex Putterman, courant.com, "UConn football hangs close with Houston, falls 24-17 at Rentschler Field," 19 Oct. 2019 Suddenly, sleek and black as night, a small wildcat called a jaguarundi descended the trunk of a Brazil nut tree, leaped to the forest floor and ran off into the jungle. Jason G. Goldman, Scientific American, "Monkeys Use Alarm Calls to Tell Predators to Scram," 12 June 2019 Besides his defensive prowess, Ward has also become an offensive weapon, most notably via short-yardage wildcat packages. Steve Reaven, chicagotribune.com, "Colin Ward gives Deerfield a powerful presence on the defensive line," 15 Sep. 2019 Yes, bobcats are the modern-day kings of Wisconsin wildcats. Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Smith: When it comes to wildcats in Wisconsin, bobcats are king," 5 June 2019 Choose from fall- and winter-inspired colors like fog melange, plum melange, nightfall, black, lilac grey, wildcat, or crisp white (because white sneakers are always in season). Susan Brickell, Health.com, "Meghan Markle's Favorite Shoe Brand Just Launched a Brand New Style Today—So We Tried It," 10 Sep. 2019 Evan Aguon scored two touchdowns for the Bucs, taking snaps in the wildcat and breaking off TD runs. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Week 1: Prep football notable stories, performances," 24 Aug. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective However, a motion penalty erased Stutsman’s 5-yard TD run out of wildcat formation and the drive sputtered to an end with a missed 28-yard field-goal attempt. Lynn Ramsey, orlandosentinel.com, "Foundation Academy football falls at Lakeland Victory Christian," 22 Nov. 2019 Out of the wildcat formation, running back Rodney Smith took a direct snap on third and goal and scored from two yards out. Andy Greder, Twin Cities, "Gophers win first Big Ten opener since 2014, 38-31 over Purdue," 28 Sep. 2019 The Eagles scored with 53 seconds remaining on a Jaylen Taylor 5-yard touchdown run and then lined up in a wildcat formation with Jayson Jones. Al.com Reports, al, "Birmingham HS football: Center Point, Hewitt-Trussville, Briarwood Christian, Helena earn wins," 28 Sep. 2019 Facing a second-and-9 from their own 29, the Broncos lined up in a wildcat formation, which featured running back Phillip Lindsay (30) in shotgun with receiver Diontae Spencer (11) to his left. Ellis L. Williams, cleveland, "Browns needed Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon to do their job on 2 key plays vs. Broncos, and they didn’t -- Film Review," 7 Nov. 2019 Akers also took some snaps out of the wildcat formation and completed two passes for 26 yards. Bob Ferrante, sun-sentinel.com, "FSU pounds on visiting Syracuse, gets back to .500," 26 Oct. 2019 Working out of the wildcat formation, Williams took a direct snap and trudged his way down into Lancers territory while his quarterback recovered. J.l. Kirven, Cincinnati.com, "Cincinnati Ohio high school football: Winton Woods stuns La Salle, 26-21, in a thriller," 26 Oct. 2019 Jackson led Clayton Valley with 69 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 21 carries from the wildcat formation. SFChronicle.com, "Roundup: No. 7 Monte Vista tops No. 21 Clayton Valley," 25 Oct. 2019 Washington State added a field goal before halftime, and CU had a brief moment of hope after Laviska Shenault scored on a 6-yard run out of the wildcat formation. Brian Howell, The Denver Post, "Reeling CU Buffs routed by Washington State football," 19 Oct. 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

13 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Wildcat.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wildcat. Accessed 13 December 2019.

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More Definitions for wildcat


How to pronounce wildcat (audio)

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on wildcat

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with wildcat

Spanish Central: Translation of wildcat

Nglish: Translation of wildcat for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about wildcat

Comments on wildcat

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


easily led, controlled, or managed

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