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 Now, in the ninth episode of season 12 — the penultimate episode before the Emmy-winning HBO comedy’s series finale this weekend — Springsteen returns. Jackie Strause, The Hollywood Reporter, 3 Apr. 2024 Bruce Springsteen made a surprise appearance as himself in the penultimate episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Madison Bloom, Pitchfork, 1 Apr. 2024 In the penultimate game of Friday’s four-contest lineup — the Round of 16 started with four games Thursday — defending champion College of Idaho defeated Madonna (Michigan) 87-65. Kansas City Star, 23 Mar. 2024 Regional championships will begin on Saturday, March 30 Final Four April 6 – The penultimate games will air on CBS. Chris Morris, Fortune, 19 Mar. 2024 Coming into the penultimate game of conference play, rebounding has been a topic of conversation for the 49ers; they’ve been outrebounded in all five of their conference losses. Hunter Bailey, Charlotte Observer, 7 Mar. 2024 When three other contestants were chosen for the day’s penultimate game, Belle and de Guzman knew they would be matched up. Kyle Melnick, Washington Post, 29 Feb. 2024 The Kings escaped with a last-second, 109-107 win over the Orlando Magic at Kia Center, finishing their penultimate road trip of the season 2-1 and on a good note following Thursday’s ugly loss to the Washington Wizards. Chris Biderman, Sacramento Bee, 24 Mar. 2024 Understandably, the queen assumes the decision is Wilhelm’s reactive –– and fleeting –– ploy to reunite with Simon (Omar Rudberg), who ended their relationship in the penultimate episode after expressing his fears that the pressures of the crown were changing Wilhelm and himself. Hunter Ingram, Variety, 19 Mar. 2024

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 15 Apr. 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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