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 Sgamma pointed to George Mitchell, the wildcatter who pioneered directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the 1990s. Brian Maffly, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Trump promised ‘energy dominance.’ Here is what that meant for Utah.," 21 Dec. 2020 Roberta Wright McCain was born on Feb. 7, 1912, in Muskogee, Oklahoma, to mother Myrtle Fletcher and father Archibald Wright, who retired early and moved the family to Los Angeles after earning his fortune scouting for oil as a wildcatter. Jeannette Hinkle, The Arizona Republic, "Roberta McCain, mother of John McCain and matriarch of the McCain family, dies at 108," 13 Oct. 2020 The rebellious daughter of a wealthy Oklahoma oil wildcatter who settled his family in Los Angeles, Mrs. McCain eloped and became a Navy wife in 1933. Robert D. Mcfadden, New York Times, "Roberta McCain Dies at 108; Mother of the Senator and His Beacon," 12 Oct. 2020 Doesn’t mean the old wildcatter’s learned his lesson. Kevin Sherrington, Dallas News, "It’s time for Cowboys to bring Earl Thomas to Dallas. As long as they set some ground rules first.," 4 Sep. 2020 Today, with the U.S. benchmark price for crude oil entering negative territory for the first time in history, a wildcatter who struck oil couldn’t give it away without paying someone to take it. Justin Worland, Time, "Oil Prices Won't Be Negative Forever. But the Oil Industry Will Never Be the Same," 20 Apr. 2020 Many Texas wildcatters are predicting a rapid decline in production growth next year, while some Democratic contenders for the White House have called for a ban on fracking. Washington Post, "U.S. solidifies position as energy producer with first full month in decades as net oil exporter," 29 Nov. 2019 As oil prices fell below $40 a barrel in 2015-2016, many wildcatters folded or were absorbed by larger producers. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "How America Broke OPEC," 14 Dec. 2018 Those who got out at the right time made fortunes, like wildcatter Floyd Wilson, who raked in $12 billion selling his company to BHP Group Ltd. Kevin Crowley And Rachel Adams-heard, Houston Chronicle, "Oil boom feels more like a bust in Texas shale patch," 13 Feb. 2020

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

28 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Wildcatter.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wildcatter. Accessed 7 Mar. 2021.

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