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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Inst. and Ult.

I was mystified when I first encountered the usage of "inst." and "ult." in Shipping News reports from historic newspapers. I noticed they were generally used in commercial language, such as business correspondence or news reportage and indicated some form of abbreviation.  

They are actually abbreviations of Latin terms. "Inst." is short for the Latin "instante mense" or "this month."  And "ult." is short for "ultimo mense" or "previous month."  (Another related term genealogists may encounter is "prox.," from "proximo mense" or "next month.)

Oftentimes, an old newspaper item will report a total list of shipping arrivals and departures over a two week or 30 day period.  These shortened terms replace the need to keep mentioning the actual name of the month.

"Inst. and ult." are used in many descriptions besides shipping news, however. 

Here are two examples from 1870 newspapers. The terms "inst." and "ult." are highlighted in yellow.  Please click on the images for a larger, more readable version.

Inst.    A collection of news items for various towns in Ireland, 1870

Irish American Weekly, NY NY  29 Oct 1870

Ult.    A list of recent deaths, from the Springfield, Mass. newspaper

Springfield Republican 8 Apr 1870

In 1923, Punch, a popular British satire magazine, referred to these terms as "outdated jargon."

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