wild·​cat·​ter | \ ˈwī(-ə)l(d)-ˌka-tər How to pronounce wildcatter (audio) \

Definition of wildcatter

1 : one that drills wells in the hope of finding oil in territory not known to be an oil field
2 : one that promotes unsafe and unreliable enterprises especially : one that sells stocks in such enterprises
3 : one that designs, builds, or fires wildcat cartridges and firearms
4 : a worker who goes out on a wildcat strike

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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

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Founded by Autry Stevens, a Texas wildcatter who has drilled aggressively in the region for more than five decades, Endeavor has one of the most prized land positions of any oil-and-gas company in the world. Dana Mattioli, WSJ, "Endeavor Energy Resources Explores Potential Sale," 23 Oct. 2018 The gold boom is attracting not only wildcatters but also criminal gangs and the National Liberation Army, a violent Colombian rebel group steeped in criminal activity, Venezuelan opposition figures and dissident military officers say. Kejal Vyas |, WSJ, "Desperate Venezuelans Dig Up Paradise in Search of Gold," 20 Nov. 2018 Ormand watched the money as chief financial officer while co-founder and CEO Gary Evans, a brash wildcatter, found the oil and made the deals. Jordan Blum, San Antonio Express-News, "Lilis may be an acquisition target," 13 July 2018 Three years later, the hill and 2 square miles of the surrounding plains incorporated as the city of Signal Hill, a settlement of roughnecks and wildcatters, an oil boomtown during the time when California produced a quarter of the world’s oil. Scott Garner, latimes.com, "Neighborhood Spotlight: Signal Hill keeps progress in view without blocking out its oil town past," 22 June 2018 Centuries later, tequila has exploded again, in a gusher that has turned unlikely gringo wildcatters into tequila billionaires. Mark Seal, WSJ, "The Tequila Gold Rush," 19 June 2018 Carlos Alfredo Brito, 27, had recently begun delivering gasoline to wildcatters along with the Linares brothers. Andrew Rosati, Bloomberg.com, "The Bloody Grab for Gold in Venezuela’s Most Dangerous Town," 9 Apr. 2018 Yet amid this Boy Scout good behaviour, the wildcatter spirit remains—all couched in typical industry hyperbole. The Economist, "American shale-oil producers are on a roll," 10 May 2018 Don Graham, a Texas writer and professor, digs into Giant like a wildcatter drilling for oil. Gary M. Kramer, Philly.com, "'Giant': A giant book about a giant film," 4 May 2018

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

1883, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of wildcatter was in 1883

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


to move with exaggerated bouncy motions

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