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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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 to refer to a form of the dark energy believed to make up almost 70 percent of the energy in the observable 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 Material quality throughout is first rate, heightening the interior’s visual simplicity that is the very quintessence of luxury. Tribune News Service, cleveland, 11 Dec. 2021 For Dole, extending a hand to a political opponent had become the quintessence of patriotism. Kathy Kiely, USA TODAY, 5 Dec. 2021 Myers lives, of course, being the very quintessence of evil. Michael Phillips, chicagotribune.com, 13 Oct. 2021 The quintessence of California’s shoreline is its stark variety, from the gentle beaches of Coronado to the sea stacks of the North Coast. Los Angeles Times, 7 Oct. 2021 For me, the Velvet Underground has always been the quintessence of Downtown, that shadowland between the financial district and 14th Street in lower Manhattan. Kyle Smith, National Review, 6 Oct. 2021 But when Tesla bought IPO SolarCity in late 2016, Schuster grabbed the opportunity to jump back into a name that’s the quintessence of Big Momentum. Shawn Tully, Fortune, 8 July 2021 While 90210 stands as the quintessence of Fox's '90s teen drama brand, another series on the network explored coming-of-age travails in a more artful way. Ew Staff, EW.com, 10 May 2021 Finding the quintessence of a dish meant for everyday comfort doesn’t have to entail a thorough excavation. Washington Post, 9 Mar. 2021

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

19 Dec 2021

Cite this Entry

“Quintessence.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/quintessence. Accessed 24 Jan. 2022.

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Nglish: Translation of quintessence for Spanish Speakers


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