quid·​di·​ty | \ ˈkwi-də-tē How to pronounce quiddity (audio) \
plural quiddities

Definition of quiddity

1 : whatever makes something the type that it is : essence
2a : 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" sense of "quiddity" (this oldest sense of "quiddity" dates from the 14th century). "Quibble" is a synonym of the "trifling point" sense; that meaning of "quiddity" arose from the subtler points of 16th-century academic arguments. And "quirk," like "quiddity," can refer to a person's eccentricities. Of course, "quiddity" also derives 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," gave rise to the Medieval Latin quidditas, which means "essence," a term that was essential to the development of the English "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 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 example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'quiddity.' 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 quiddity

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for quiddity

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

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

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Last Updated

28 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Quiddity.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/quiddity. Accessed 24 Jun. 2021.

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More from Merriam-Webster on quiddity

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for quiddity

Britannica English: Translation of quiddity for Arabic Speakers


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