from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Next to last.
  • adjective Linguistics Of or relating to the penult of a word.
  • noun The next to the last.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun In whist and bridge, the lowest but one of a suit.
  • Immediately preceding that member of a series which is the last; next before the last; being the last but one: as, the penultimate syllable; the penultimate joint. Compare antepenultimate.
  • noun That member of a series which is the last but one; specifically, the last syllable but one of a word.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Last but one.
  • noun The penult.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective formal Coming next-to-last in a sequence.
  • adjective linguistics Of or pertaining to a penult.
  • noun this sense?) A next-to-last thing.
  • noun linguistics A next-to-last syllable in a linguistic unit.

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

  • noun the next to last syllable in a word
  • adjective next to the last


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

[From Latin paenultimus; see penult.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin paenultimus, from paene ("almost") + ultimus ("last").


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  • Meaning "next to last" not "super ultimate" as people often seem to assume.

    May 20, 2007

  • That's got to be the second-worst language mistake I hear people make all the time.

    May 21, 2007

  • And the first (just out of curiosity)?

    May 21, 2007

  • Literally, when whatever's being described is the exact opposite of literal.

    May 21, 2007

  • Yes! AAAAAARGH! I literally cringe when I hear that. ;-)

    May 21, 2007

  • Likewise on both accounts, with extra cringes for the recent fad of belligerent used as a synonym for drunk/intoxicated. *huuuhg*

    May 21, 2007

  • The use of literally to mean figuratively makes me lose a little more faith in humanity every time I hear it.

    May 23, 2007

  • One of wife's favourties.

    January 19, 2008

  • People who use the word penultimate properly hold a special place in my heart.

    September 23, 2008

  • In the left atrium?

    September 23, 2008

  • the word is so misunderstood...

    October 17, 2008

  • My all-time, most hated type of speech is execubabble. For example, the (?word?) 'incentivize'.

    It's not a @#!#@#@! word!!!

    It is a noun, not a #@#!#@!@ verb!! Stop with the verbification!!! (To quote a term coined by Grammar Girl).

    June 11, 2009

  • He who laughs last does not laugh penultimately.

    June 24, 2009

  • This word is often taken to somehow mean "super-ultimate" as if the "pen" syllable where an intensifier. This dilutes the usefulness of actual meaning, but it is a very common usage nonetheless.

    June 28, 2009

  • I think many people assume penultimate to be a cross between pinnacle and ultimate. In that sense, Nigel from Spinal Tap could have said, "this amplifier is the penultimate."

    October 29, 2009

  • /p??n?lt?m?t/ looks like an error. A stressed schwa?

    Random House says /p??n?lt?m?t/ which not only looks more reasonable but also agrees with my printed version of the Heritage Dictionary (including the /?/s and schwas in the unstressed syllables).

    November 6, 2009

  • What happened to my dear Unicode? :-o

    November 6, 2009

  • The last hour had taken me into the penultimate phase, the wolf looking out through human eyes with quiet blazing animal alertness. From "The Last Werewolf" by Glen Duncan.

    March 28, 2012