Definition of quintessence
1 : the fifth and highest element in ancient and medieval philosophy that permeates all nature and is the substance composing the celestial bodies
2 : the essence of a thing in its purest and most concentrated form
3 : the most typical example or representative <the quintessence of calm>
Examples of quintessence in a sentence
<the Parthenon in Greece was considered the quintessence of the perfectly proportioned building>
<a selfless desire to help others is the quintessence of the virtue of charity>
Did You Know?
Long ago, when people believed that the earth was made up of four elements-earth, air, fire, and water-they thought the stars and planets were made up of yet another element. In the Middle Ages, people called this element by its Medieval Latin name, quinta essentia, literally, "fifth essence." Our forebears believed the quinta essentia was essential to all kinds of matter, and if they could somehow isolate it, it would cure all disease. We have since given up on that idea, but we kept "quintessence," the offspring of "quinta essentia," as a word for the purest essence of a thing. Some modern physicists have given "quintessence" a new twist-they use it for a form of so-called "dark energy," which is believed to make up 70 percent of the universe.
Origin of quintessence
Middle English, from Middle French quinte essence, from Medieval Latin quinta essentia, literally, fifth essence
First Known Use: 15th century
Learn More about quintessence
Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for "quintessence" Spanish Central: Translation of "quintessence" Nglish: Translation of "quintessence" for Spanish speakers
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