Monday, October 10, 2011


TileHead’s Word of the Day for 10 October 2011

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ULTIMO  (adj.)

  1. (adj.) of or occurring in the previous month

Useful information for game players:
  • Front hooks: (none)
  • Back hooks: (none)
  • Anagrams: (none)
  • Longer extensions: ultimoGENITURE, ultimoGENITURES
  • Wraparounds: MultimoDE, MultimoDAL, MultimoLECULAR
  • Other Spellings: (none)
  • Related Forms: (none)

For several centuries and up until a hundred years or so ago, nearly every educated English speaker would have been familiar with the use and meaning of the terms ULTIMO, PROXIMO, and INSTANT, as they were widely employed in letters, court proceedings, and other official correspondence:
  • ULTIMO means “in the preceding month,” as when George Washington wrote “I was very glad to receive your letter of the 31st ultimo...” (1792)
  • PROXIMO means “in the next month,” as when Benjamin R. Cowen wrote in a letter to Ulysses S. Grant “I have the honor to tender my resignation of the position of Ass’t Sec’y of the Interior, to take effect on the 14th proximo...” (1876)
  • INSTANT means “in the current month,” as when George Tichenor wrote in a letter “The Department is in receipt of a letter from Hon. J.R. Hawley, U.S. Senate, dated the 9th instant...” (1890)
These terms are short for ultimo mense, proximo mense, and instant mense, respectively — mense being Latin for “month” — but the second word was usually dropped and the entire phrase often abbreviated: the 16th ult., the 30th prox., the 3rd inst., etc.

The ULTIMATE parent of ULTIMO is the Latin ultimus (“last”), which makes an appearance in many other English words, including ULTIMOGENITURE: “a system of succession in which the right to inheritance rests with the youngest (lastborn) of a family.”  (The contrasting term is PRIMOGENITURE, in which inheritance is the right of the firstborn, or eldest, child.)

This week’s theme: Words starting with the letter U

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