Word of the Day

wild card

Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


1. permission to take part in a sports competition that you would not normally be allowed to play in

2. a player who has this permission

3. (Computing) a sign or symbol used for representing any letter or number

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

Wild card was first used with its sporting meaning in the 1940s, initially in American English. The term comes from card playing, where a card that is wild is one that can replace any other card at the choice of the player. This role is usually taken by the joker but can be applied to any card.


At the Wimbledon tennis tournament, a wild card is a player who is allowed to take part in the Championships despite not having a high enough world ranking to qualify automatically. Wild cards are awarded on the basis of previous performance at the championships or because of British interest; they are given to a disproportionately high number of British players because matches featuring these players are popular with the crowds. The other main use of the term is in computing, where a wild card is a sign or symbol, often the asterisk, that can represent any letter or number.


“The only wild card to win the gentlemen’s singles title was Goran Ivanisevic in 2001. No wild card has won the ladies’ singles.”

“I’ve been grateful to get a wildcard into Wimbledon in the past, it’s the best event in the world.”
(Cameron Norrie, British men’s number 2 ranked player)

Related words

player, qualifier, finalist, semifinalist

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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