wild·​cat·​ter ˈwī(-ə)l(d)-ˌka-tər How to pronounce wildcatter (audio)
: one that drills wells in the hope of finding oil in territory not known to be an oil field
: one that promotes unsafe and unreliable enterprises
especially : one that sells stocks in such enterprises
: one that designs, builds, or fires wildcat cartridges and firearms
: a worker who goes out on a wildcat strike

Did you know?

Messing with a wildcat, such as a lynx, can be a pretty risky undertaking, but ferocious felines played only an indirect role in the development of the word wildcatter. That term has been used in English since the late 19th century, along with the verb "wildcat," which refers to the risky practice of drilling experimental oil wells in territory not known to produce oil. English-speakers associated "wildcat" with risk-taking ventures after a number of U.S. banks fraudulently issued banknotes with little or no capital to back them up. Supposedly, the banknotes issued by one particular bank bore the image of a panther or, as it was known locally, a "wildcat," and it was those risky notes that led to the financial risk-taking senses of "wildcat" and "wildcatter."

Examples of wildcatter in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The wildcatter in Jerry still itches for the big play. Kevin Sherrington, Dallas News, 28 Apr. 2023 Shares of refiners, Texas wildcatters, oilfield services firms, rig owners, Appalachian gas producers, coal miners, crude shippers and pipeline operators all traded lower. Ryan Dezember, WSJ, 15 Mar. 2023 Energy stocks also lost 5.9% Wednesday, making the sector the S&P 500’s worst performer, with shares of international oil majors, refiners, Texas wildcatters, oil-field services firms, rig owners, Appalachian gas producers, coal miners, crude shippers and pipeline operators all sliding. David Uberti, WSJ, 15 Mar. 2023 His father was an oil wildcatter. Richard Sandomir, New York Times, 29 June 2021 Nice to see the days of wildcat, every-man-for-himself days of brutal ice infighting are over — unless there are cops at the border, wearing mirrored sunglasses, waiting for some non-dues-paying ice wildcatter to run a load of bootleg cubes over the border. Star Tribune, 9 July 2021 The grand estate project began as a custom home for Christy Thompson, daughter of late wildcatter J. Cleo Thompson. Dallas News, 27 May 2022 But Tennessee is trying to tap into our greatness like a wildcatter drilling into someone else’s oil field. Los Angeles Times, 13 Jan. 2023 With plans to become a wildcatter, Mr. Mays received a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering from Texas A&M University in 1957. Emily Langer, Washington Post, 16 Sep. 2022 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

1883, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of wildcatter was in 1883


Dictionary Entries Near wildcatter

Cite this Entry

“Wildcatter.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wildcatter. Accessed 7 Dec. 2023.

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