pen·​ul·​ti·​mate pi-ˈnəl-tə-mət How to pronounce penultimate (audio)
: next to the last
the penultimate chapter of a book
: of or relating to the next to the last syllable of a word
a penultimate accent
penultimately adverb

Did you know?

Penultimate isn't the last word in words for things that are next to last. There is a pair of noun synonyms that are used commonly enough to have gained entry into abridged dictionaries: penult and penultima. Although all three can refer to something that's next to last, penult and penultima are usually a bit more specific; they are used most often to identify the next to last syllable of a word. All three derive from paenultima, the feminine of paenultimus, a Latin root from paene ("almost") and ultimus ("last"). You may occasionally hear the word penultimate used as an intensified version of ultimate, as in "a race they've called 'the penultimate challenge.'" This use isn't typically found in edited prose, however, or in dictionaries. One of our editors discusses it in this video.

Examples of penultimate in a Sentence

Belle was the penultimate person to die, just hours before a slave, fifty-three-year-old Alba, wandered in delirium away from his cabin and sat down to death in front of Carlyle's airing-out cottage. Edward P. Jones, The Known World, 2003
He threw harder in the last inning than he did in the first, whiffing pinch hitter Darryl Strawberry with a 97-mph heater for the penultimate out and blowing away the final hitter, Knoblauch, with a 96-mph fastball. Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated, 27 Mar. 2000
… regulations have cleared the penultimate hurdle and appear ready to become law … John Aloysius Farrell, Sunday Denver (CO) Post, 2 Sept. 1984
Pompey … speaks of her mother's difficult death and of her own longings for death and rises to a rare moment of lyric power in the novel's penultimate paragraph. Joyce Carol Oates, New York Times Book Review, 3 Oct. 1982
the penultimate syllable of the word
Recent Examples on the Web On the penultimate evening of New York Fashion Week, luminaries of all varieties flocked uptown to celebrate the opening of the Tod’s boutique. Vogue, 14 Feb. 2024 True Detective: Night Country aired its penultimate episode on Friday, two days early because of Sunday’s Super Bowl, a fairly common practice. Paul Tassi, Forbes, 10 Feb. 2024 In the penultimate episode — after the longtime friends finally make their way back to each other in a romantic way, and begin their lives together — Emma is killed in a car accident. Emily Longeretta, Variety, 9 Feb. 2024 Florida’s first pick is No. 63 overall, the penultimate pick in the second round. David Wilson, Miami Herald, 31 Jan. 2024 Harold Reynolds Second baseman Harold Reynolds spent the penultimate season of a 12-year major league career with the Orioles. Paul McCardell, Baltimore Sun, 31 Jan. 2024 Natalya and chef Jack Luby planned her secret return during the season 8 penultimate episode. Gina Ragusa,, 22 Jan. 2024 In Netflix’s global smash hit Squid Game, the penultimate challenge sees the last few surviving competitors make their way across a glass bridge. Alex Weprin, The Hollywood Reporter, 26 Jan. 2024 Through it all, the Heat remained in playoff contention until the penultimate night of the season. Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel, 13 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'penultimate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


see penult

First Known Use

1677, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of penultimate was in 1677


Dictionary Entries Near penultimate

Cite this Entry

“Penultimate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


pen·​ul·​ti·​mate pi-ˈnəl-tə-mət How to pronounce penultimate (audio)
: next to the last
penultimate noun
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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