quin·​tes·​sence | \ kwin-ˈte-sᵊn(t)s How to pronounce quintessence (audio) \

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

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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.

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
Recent Examples on the Web In the year 2020, more than half a century after Edward Hopper died, social media has christened his paintings as the quintessence of our feelings in quarantine. Domenica Bongiovanni, The Indianapolis Star, "Edward Hopper has become an icon of social distancing, but Newfields shows his other sides," 4 Aug. 2020 Above, the sky is a pristine blue, the cloudless quintessence of a spring morning. Pia Ceres, Wired, "Will the Class of 2020 Please Line Up on the Minecraft Stage?," 11 May 2020 The concept of a fifth element actually is pretty commonplace in Eurasia, with Aristotle dubbing it aether, India dubbing it akasha, and western Europe referring to it as quintessence. Marcus Jones, EW.com, "Does water have memory? And 4 other questions from Frozen 2," 3 Dec. 2019 Yes, outwardly the pianist András Schiff appears to be the quintessence of Central European charm and gentility. BostonGlobe.com, "With rigor and fantasy in equal parts, pianist András Schiff returns to the BSO - The Boston Globe," 19 Oct. 2019 Jane Pauley reflects on the quintessence of Renaissance art. CBS News, "This Week: "A Sunday Morning in Florence" (August 18)," 15 Aug. 2019 Warner Bros/Everett Collection Things on Earth were composed of mixtures of the four elements—earth, fire, air and water—but the spheres were made of a fifth element, or quintessence, that was entirely different and unchanging. Adam Kirsch, WSJ, "Our Quest for Meaning in the Heavens," 28 June 2019 Build-wise, the UX is a thimble-full of Lexus brand quintessence, with deep cabin-noise isolation, well damped ride quality (considering the eentsy wheelbase), and competent, confidence-inspiring control of body motions. Dan Neil, WSJ, "The Lexus UX 250h: Perfect If You Have No Kids and Extra Cash," 20 June 2019 Quinta Do Vallado Wine Hotel: For the quintessence of Portugal’s wine country, this 13-room wine-estate hotel makes for the perfect frame to view the magnificent Douro Valley. Anne Farrar, National Geographic, "Here’s why everyone is going to Portugal now," 18 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'quintessence.' 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 quintessence

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for quintessence

Middle English, from Middle French quinte essence, from Medieval Latin quinta essentia, literally, fifth essence

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The first known use of quintessence was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

8 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Quintessence.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/quintessence. Accessed 15 Aug. 2020.

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Spanish Central: Translation of quintessence

Nglish: Translation of quintessence for Spanish Speakers

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