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

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 Then there’s Texas wildcatter Trevor Rees-Jones, who built Chief Oil & Gas into a major natural gas producer over the past two decades. Jeff Ernsthausen, ProPublica, 7 Dec. 2021 David Franklin Kennedy, an only child, was born May 31, 1939, in Wichita, Kan., and grew up partly in Oklahoma and Colorado as his father worked as an oil-exploration wildcatter. James R. Hagerty, WSJ, 22 Oct. 2021 David Franklin Kennedy was born on May 31, 1939, in Wichita, Kan., the only child of Melinda Jane (Spoon) Kennedy, a bank administrator, and James Franklin Kennedy, a second-generation wildcatter. New York Times, 15 Oct. 2021 Jones is a wildcatter from way back with a bit of riverboat gambler thrown in for good measure. Michael Gehlken, Dallas News, 21 Sep. 2021 Thompson, the daughter of late Texas wildcatter J. Cleo Thompson, is well-suited to the task. Mary Grace Granados, Dallas News, 27 July 2021 After college, Red worked as a wildcatter for an oil company. San Diego Union-Tribune, 26 Mar. 2021 Sgamma pointed to George Mitchell, the wildcatter who pioneered directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the 1990s. Brian Maffly, The Salt Lake Tribune, 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, 13 Oct. 2020 See More

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.

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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Cite this Entry

“Wildcatter.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wildcatter. Accessed 28 Jun. 2022.

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