Many people use “penultimate” to mean “more than ultimate,” but the word actually has a very narrow (and different) definition. Here’s what Merriam-Webster says:
So in a list, “penultimate” would refer to the next-to-last item. On a train ride, it would mean the next-to-last stop.
And in this photo of fantastic chickens, the chicken on the left would be the “penultimate chicken.”
What Does “Ultimate” Mean?
“Ultimate,” however, has multiple meanings.
One is “final.”
Example: Harry’s “ultimate” destination is Mars.
Another is “eventual.”
Example: Harry’s “ultimate” goal is universal domination.
It also means “fundamental.”
Example: Harry’s “ultimate” nature is pure evil.
Now you know, and you can correct your friends much to their chagrin (just like I do)!
Erin Servais is a book editor who can help your book be the ultimate. Contact her today about your publishing goals: www.dotanddashllc.com.
Sign up for the Dot and Dash newsletter to get writing tips and tricks and exclusive deals.
Follow Dot and Dash on social media.
2 thoughts on “Penultimate vs. Ultimate”
Therefore, in NFL football, the conference championship games are the penultimate final games for the season.
If I’m remembering my football facts correctly, that is right! It would be more concise to delete “final,” though, as “penultimate” already means “next to final.”