quid pro quo

\ ˌkwid-ˌprō-ˈkwō How to pronounce quid pro quo (audio) \

Definition of quid pro quo

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

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Quid Pro Quo and the Apothecary

In the early 16th century, a quid pro quo was something obtained from an apothecary. That's because when quid pro quo (New Latin for "something for something") was first used in English, it referred to the process of substituting one medicine for another—whether intentionally (and sometimes fraudulently) or accidentally. The meaning of the phrase was quickly extended, however, and within several decades it was being used for more general equivalent exchanges. These days, it often occurs in legal contexts.

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

Many Americans are legitimately worried about special interests and corporations using campaign spending as a quid pro quo to gain political access and influence. Joe Lonsdale, National Review, "Regulating Speech Won’t Fix Our Politics," 12 Aug. 2019 The committee appeared to be asking whether there was any quid pro quo in the deal to provide the free HIV medication. Christopher Rowland, Washington Post, "Gilead’s deal to provide free HIV prevention drug for Trump effort is getting House scrutiny," 27 June 2019 Christ said the campus had patched up such weaknesses in athletics five years earlier: names of athletes who rarely play are now checked against donor lists to flag quid pro quo admissions, and three committees verify athletic applicants. Nanette Asimov, SFChronicle.com, "UC Berkeley chancellor confronts diversity, housing challenges as classes resume," 2 Sep. 2019 The quid pro quo relationship between Aequitas and a handful of investment advisory firms across the country emerged as one of the particularly egregious aspects of the Aequitas swindle. oregonlive.com, "SEC: Gig Harbor investment advisor secretly in cahoots with Aequitas banned from investment business," 26 July 2019 Federal prosecutors abandoned efforts to try Mr. Menendez after the judge threw out several counts of the charges, saying that the prosecution had not proved a quid pro quo under the definition laid out by the McDonnell decision. Nick Corasaniti, New York Times, "Why the ‘Bridgegate’ Scandal Could Backfire on Prosecutors," 3 July 2019 Although the Burton Foundation had accepted large sums of money from various oversea sources of dubious provenance, concrete evidence of a quid pro quo had never been found. Lucinda Rosenfeld, Harper's magazine, "First Daughters," 10 Feb. 2019 In his closing argument, Scuderi told the jurors that the central weakness of the prosecution’s case was the absence of evidence of an explicit quid pro quo in which Green agreed to sell his office. Craig R. Mccoy, Philly.com, "Former Philly Sheriff John Green beats every charge in federal bribery-conspiracy trial," 3 Apr. 2018 For instance, one charge, a quid pro quo trade of favors, is incredibly hard to prove. Chrissie Thompson, Cincinnati.com, "FBI's interest in Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger: What we know – and don't know," 8 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'quid pro quo.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of quid pro quo

1582, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for quid pro quo

New Latin, something for something

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Statistics for quid pro quo

Last Updated

8 Oct 2019

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Time Traveler for quid pro quo

The first known use of quid pro quo was in 1582

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More Definitions for quid pro quo

quid pro quo


Financial Definition of quid pro quo

What It Is

Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase that literally means "something for something." The phrase usually indicates an exchange of goods or services of roughly equivalent value.

How It Works

From a legal perspective, quid pro quo indicates that a good or service has been traded for something of equal value. In particular, quid pro quo is used explicitly to indicate that there has been "consideration" in a contract, meaning that there are goods or services being delivered and that acceptable payment is made for these goods or services. Without consideration, or quid pro quo, for example, a contract may be determined to be nonbinding and invalid.

In the political world, for example, quid pro quo sometimes refers to giving support, financial or otherwise, to a political candidate in exchange for the expectation of direct support for an activity of the political benefactor. Quid pro quo may appear as bribery in these cases and such support must always be tested for conflicts of interest.

Why It Matters

Quid pro quo is one of the most common Latin legal terms used. In any transaction, legal, political or otherwise, it is helpful to know the quid pro quo, that is, the balance of the value of the service or good and the financial compensation being offered.

Source: Investing Answers

quid pro quo


English Language Learners Definition of quid pro quo

: something that is given to you or done for you in return for something you have given to or done for someone else

quid pro quo

\ ˌkwid-ˌprō-ˈkwō How to pronounce quid pro quo (audio) \

Legal Definition of quid pro quo

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

History and Etymology for quid pro quo

New Latin, something for something

More from Merriam-Webster on quid pro quo

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with quid pro quo

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for quid pro quo

Britannica English: Translation of quid pro quo for Arabic Speakers

Comments on quid pro quo

What made you want to look up quid pro quo? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a topic to which one constantly reverts

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