Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adv. In or of the month before the present one: on the 15th ultimo.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. On the last day (of a specified month).
  • adv. Of last month.
  • n. = ultimum

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • In the month immediately preceding the present; ; -- usually abbreviated to ult. Cf. proximo.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • In the month which preceded the present; in the last month, as distinguished from the current or present month and all others.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. in or of the month preceding the present one

Etymologies

Latin ultimō (mēnse), in the last (month), ablative of ultimus, last; see ultimate.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
First attested in 1582; from the Latin ultimō (elliptically for ultimō diē or ultimō mēnse), masculine ablative singular form of ultimus ("last"); cognate with Dutch ultimo, the German ultimo, the Swedish ultimo, etc. (Wiktionary)
First attested in 1622; from either the Italian ultimo, or the Portuguese ultimo, or the Spanish ultimo; compare ultime. (Wiktionary)

Examples

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Comments

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  • Ultimo, together with instant and proximo, is an example of an outdated commercial language. Few businessmen would today begin a letter "With reference to yours of the 14th ultimo", or "yours of the 23rd instant", or "Please attend this office for interview on the 11th proximo", but it was once standard and taught in the best books. All three were commonly abbreviated, to ult, inst and prox respectively.

    Ultimo and proximo are both Latin, shortened forms of ultimo mense, in the previous month, and proximo mense, in the next month. Many reference works say inst is from Latin instante mense, in the current month. But the Oxford English Dictionary points out that it has always been expanded to the English word instant, in the specialised meaning of current.

    By 1922, such terms were being satirised in Punch:


      Bear up, brave clerklets, though the lights of learning
      Your quaint commercial English sadly shocks,
      And even your bosses are agreed in spurning
      Your "inst", and "ult", and "prox".
      I like the pleasant jargon: I should miss it
      If firms no more ("per pro" before their name)
      Should "thank me for past favours and solicit
      Continuance of the same".

    (from World Wide Words)

    May 21, 2008