"in the month preceding the present," 1610s, common in abbreviated form ult. in 18c.-19c. correspondence and newspapers, from Latin ultimo (mense) "of last (month)," ablative singular masc. of ultimus "last" (see ultimate). Earlier it was used in the sense of "on the last day of the month specified" (1580s). Contrasted with proximo "in the next (month)," from Latin proximo (mense).