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

  • adverb In or of the month before the present one.

from The Century Dictionary.

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

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 Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective obsolete On the last day (of a specified month).
  • adverb Of last month.
  • noun obsolete, rare = ultimum

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

  • adjective in or of the month preceding the present one


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

[Latin ultimō (mēnse), in the last (month), ablative of ultimus, last; see ultimate.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

First attested in 1622; from either the Italian ultimo, or the Portuguese ultimo, or the Spanish ultimo; compare ultime.



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  • Ultimo, together with instant and proximo, is an example of an outdated commercial language.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

  • If you would let your learning show

    Do not cite simply "a month ago,"

    Nor deal out the scanty,

    Like "pre-" and wee "ante-,"

    When you can impress with "ultimo."

    January 30, 2015

  • If the meaning of "ultimo" pertains to a preceding period of time, how did it come to have such common usage in musical theatre as referring to the last number of the show--"finale ultimo"? Based on that phrase, I always thought "ultimo" meant "ultimate" or "grand," i.e., the grand finale of the show.

    January 31, 2015

  • A very simple sense of "ultimo" is "last" - last month, last finale. Seems pretty direct to me.

    January 31, 2015