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
wildcatter was our Word of the Day on 08/10/2010. Hear the podcast!
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."
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