The Last Word

“Ultimate” is used most commonly these days to mean the best of its kind, but it originally meant farthest or last, deriving from Middle Latin “ultimatus.” Several ultimatus words have last or farthest meanings:
Ultimo: of or occurring in the month preceding the present, often seen in newspapers of the 1900s. Proximo means of or occurring in the next month and has the same Latin base as proximity, which means closeness. (“Close proximity” is thus redundant.)
Ultima ratio: the final argument.
Ultima Thule: also called simply Thule, a mythical far northern land the ancients believed lay six days’ sail north of the British Isles and considered to be the extreme northern limit of the world. Some scholars consider it to be the Shetland Islands or Norway.
Ultima: the last syllable of a word. Penult is the next-to-last member of a series, especially referring to a syllable and also called a penultima; the adjective is penultimate. Antepenult, antepenultima and antepenultimate are third-to-last.
Ultimogeniture: the system of inheritance by which the youngest child succeeds to the estate, as opposed to primogeniture, in which the oldest succeeds. (A primogenitor is an ancestor.)

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