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

To some, quintessence was a subtle substance found in some degree in each of the other four elements. Meg Neal, Popular Mechanics, "The Eternal Quest for Aether, the Cosmic Stuff That Never Was," 19 Oct. 2018 Moving Targets’ James Taylor, the quintessence of mellowness, is a natural to sell a distinguished assortment of soothing, homeopathic Kombucha teas. Joe Queenan, WSJ, "Retail Glory for Aging Pop Stars," 7 Sep. 2018 But a deeper look brings out the true genius of the work: the relationship between art and architecture, the way science can bring man closer to God, and an outline of the quintessence of the divine. Robert E. Gordon, WSJ, "A Multi-Layered Drama," 13 July 2018 At 30, Trump is the quintessence of the chic, modern working wife and mother, albeit with a pop-culture twist. Nancy Collins, ELLE Decor, "HOUSE TOUR: Ivanka Trump's New York City Apartment," 4 Sep. 2012 There are many of these theories (Brans-Dicke theory, dilaton theories, chameleon theories and quintessence are just some of them), and their predictions vary wildly among models. Katia Moskvitch, WIRED, "Troubled Times for Alternatives to Einstein’s Theory of Gravity," 6 May 2018 From that point forward, the quintessence of college football in my mind was Keith Jackson saying the name Michael Stonebreaker as a drumline pounds out a beat between plays. Andy Staples, SI.com, "The Voice of College Football, Keith Jackson Had a Visceral Effect on Fans," 13 Jan. 2018 Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun/Retuers An emergency department after a mass casualty incident is the quintessence of the Mike Tyson rule: Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. Jeremy Samuel Faust, Slate Magazine, "Hospitals Aren’t Fully Prepared for Mass Shootings, and It’s the Gun Lobby’s Fault," 2 Oct. 2017 Conventions of beauty change, just look at old Renaissance paintings that depict generous bellies and undulating curves as the quintessence of elegance. Nicole Spector /, NBC News, "What Makes Someone 'Most Beautiful' Is Changing, Study Says," 11 Oct. 2017

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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Last Updated

25 Apr 2019

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

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Spanish Central: Translation of quintessence

Nglish: Translation of quintessence for Spanish Speakers

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one that collects or salvages junk

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