Penultimate / adjective / pe·nul·ti·mate
We use penultimate as an adjective that entered the English language in the late 1600s. Penultimate was descriptive of the position of a word in a series. The definition later expanded to reference the next-to-last chapters in books.
Penultimate now represents holding the next-to-last position in any series. We can use the words consequent, ensuring, and eventual as synonyms of penultimate. Beginning and earliest are penultimate antonyms.
In a Sentence
We know penultimate things for occurring immediately before the last object in a series.
Penultimate things are easy to identify when they appear in a series of ranked items next to the last object in a series.
The avid reader was excited to get home and finish reading her book when she realized she had reached the penultimate chapter.
Penultimate entered our language to describe the next-to-last item or word in a series in the late 1600s, around 1677. Its definition has remained nearly the same since we first started using penultimate as an adjective in English.
English speakers expanded the definition of penultimate to include other things in a series besides words and chapters in books. However, we still use penultimate to represent next-to-last placements of objects in English today.