: something given or received for something else
also : a deal arranging a quid pro quo

Frequently Asked Questions

Is quid pro quo legal?

Quid pro quo means "something given or received for something else." There is nothing inherently illegal in giving or receiving something in exchange for something else, but in legal contexts quid pro quo often refers to something that is in fact illegal, such as if a company gives a government official money in exchange for receiving a contract that rightly should be given to whatever company is best able to meet the requirements for the contract.

Is quid pro quo bribery?

One might say that every bribe is a case of quid pro quo, but not every quid pro quo is a case of bribery. A bribe is something (such as money or a favor) given or promised in order to influence the judgment or conduct of someone, and while quid pro quo may to be used to describe this, it may also refer to something merely traded for something else.

What does quid pro quo have to do with medicine?

In current use, quid pro quo has little to do with medicine, but the Latin phrase it came from (which may be translated as "something for something") originated with apothecaries (people who prepare and sell drugs or compounds for medicinal purposes). In the 16th through the 18th centuries a quid pro quo often referred to the substitution of one medicine for another.

Examples of quid pro quo in a Sentence

in politics nobody does something for nothing: there's always a quid pro quo involved
Recent Examples on the Web As part of a quid pro quo with Sad Elizabeth Debicki, Washington and Pattinson decide to steal the forged painting. Nate Jones, Vulture, 26 Feb. 2024 But Householder's attorneys contend that prosecutors never proved Householder engaged in quid pro quo, and jurors received faulty instructions about what was required to convict the former lawmaker. Jessie Balmert, The Enquirer, 27 Feb. 2024 The patent system operates on a quid pro quo basis, where inventors disclose their ideas to the public in exchange for exclusive rights to their invention. Quora, Forbes, 10 Feb. 2024 But none have come close to Trump’s unvarnished quid pro quo on spending. Alexander Smith, NBC News, 23 Feb. 2024 Biden was actually guilty of the Ukrainian quid pro quo bragging about it to the world on the internet. Letters To The Editor, Orange County Register, 30 Jan. 2024 According to Ashby, in at least one letter to a former teacher, Allport explicitly declared his expectation of a quid pro quo for supplying specimens, particular thylacines and Aboriginal human remains, which were increasingly in demand as their respective numbers diminished. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 29 Nov. 2023 Land trust executive director Nicole Braddock took issue, emailing the nonprofit’s supporters to make clear that her organization does not accept donations that require endorsement or any quid pro quo. Ethan Baron, The Mercury News, 21 Jan. 2024 But more recently, the administration has left the door open to a two-track negotiation whereby House Republicans extract reductions in federal spending and Biden sees the debt ceiling raised — while neither side acknowledges the actions as a quid pro quo. Azi Paybarah, Washington Post, 7 May 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'quid pro quo.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


New Latin, something for something

First Known Use

1532, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of quid pro quo was in 1532


Dictionary Entries Near quid pro quo

Cite this Entry

“Quid pro quo.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/quid%20pro%20quo. Accessed 18 May. 2024.

Legal Definition

quid pro quo

: something (as consideration) given or received for something else

New Latin, something for something

More from Merriam-Webster on quid pro quo

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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