quid·​di·​ty ˈkwi-də-tē How to pronounce quiddity (audio)
plural quiddities
: whatever makes something the type that it is : essence
: a trifling point : quibble

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When it comes to synonyms of quiddity, the Q’s have it. Consider quintessence, a synonym of the “essence of a thing” meaning of quiddity, and quibble, a synonym of the “trifling point” use. And let’s not forget about quirk: like quiddity, quirk can refer to a person’s eccentricities. Of course, quiddity also comes from a “Q” word, the Latin pronoun quis, which is one of two Latin words for “who” (the other is qui). Quid, the neuter form of quis, led to the Medieval Latin quidditas, which means “essence,” a term that was essential to the development of the English word quiddity.

Examples of quiddity in a Sentence

for all of her quiddities, she is a very wise and generous lady Rembrandt's genius was his unparalleled ability to render a person's quiddity in a single portrait.
Recent Examples on the Web Not élan, quiddity. Solmaz Sharif, Harper's Magazine, 25 May 2021 Teffi bids us to accept the mystery of this strange business of life in all its delightful quiddity. Sara Wheeler, WSJ, 23 Apr. 2021 None of these quiddities has much to do with efficient military training. Steele Brand, Time, 20 Sep. 2019 Our skulls are like space helmets; we are trapped in our heads, unable to convey the quiddity of our sensations. Jason Pontin, WIRED, 16 Apr. 2018 But not even there, Lawrence thought, could Cézanne entirely overcome convention—Hortense still being somewhat of an image as opposed to sheer quiddity. Rachel Aviv, The New Yorker, 21 Feb. 2011

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

Word History


Middle English quidite, from Medieval Latin quidditat-, quidditas essence, from Latin quid what, neuter of quis who — more at who

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of quiddity was in the 14th century


Dictionary Entries Near quiddity

Cite this Entry

“Quiddity.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/quiddity. Accessed 21 Apr. 2024.

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