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

Recent Examples on the Web More: Read the latest oil and gas news from HoustonChronicle.com Conventionals Beeville wildcatter Dan A. Hughes Company obtained a permit to drill a new gas well on its West Santa Fe Ranch field in Brooks County in South Texas. Sergio Chapa, Houston Chronicle, "Drilling Down: New identity for BP in the shale fields," 30 Sep. 2019 Not be outdone, Endeavor Energy Resources, an independent oil company owned by wildcatter billionaire Autry Stephens, filed for permits to drill 25 horizontal wells in Howard, Midland and Reagan counties. Sergio Chapa, Houston Chronicle, "Drilling Down: Independents versus majors in Permian Basin," 23 Sep. 2019 Soldiers periodically run raids seizing gold from wildcatters. Kejal Vyas |, WSJ, "Desperate Venezuelans Dig Up Paradise in Search of Gold," 20 Nov. 2018 The energy behemoths have the balance-sheets to buy the wildcatters. The Economist, "Investors fee the Permian," 9 Aug. 2019 In classic wildcatter style, Mr. Pickens’s fortunes rose to prodigious heights and then collapsed, only to resume their roller coaster course in later years. Jonathan Kandell, New York Times, "T. Boone Pickens Is Dead; Oil Magnate and Corporate Raider Was 91," 11 Sep. 2019 In the depths of the Great Depression, Charles County, Md., got 15 percent of its income from wildcatters breaking the wrecks. John Kelly, Washington Post, "Jagged remains of more than 100 ghostly ships rest forever in Mallows Bay," 7 Aug. 2019 The ensuing crash pained petrostates and wildcatters alike. The Economist, "OPEC’s predictable deal cannot hide its giant problems," 4 July 2019 His father, Paul, was Canadian and earned his millions as an oil wildcatter in Alberta. Ryan O'halloran, The Denver Post, "Pat Bowlen dies: Hall of Fame Broncos owner was 75," 14 June 2019

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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Last Updated

16 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Wildcatter.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wildcatter. Accessed 28 January 2020.

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showing steady, earnest care and effort

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