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quin·​tes·​sen·​tial ˌkwin-tə-ˈsen(t)-shəl How to pronounce quintessential (audio)
: perfectly typical or representative of a particular kind of person or thing
Jerry's your quintessential streetwise New Yorker …Kai Wright
This is the quintessential Los Angeles restaurant, casual but never frumpy, lively but not overheated …Harvey Steiman
Marx was the quintessential intellectual, remarkably detached from the real world.John Steele Gordon
: being a quintessence
His very faults were middling … It was not in his nature to be superlative in anything; unless, indeed, he was superlatively middling, the quintessential extract of mediocrity.George Eliot
quintessentially adverb
It is commonly accepted … that the rocking chair was an American invention, perhaps the most quintessentially American furniture form ever invented. Linda Rosenkrantz
There's no occupation more quintessentially macho than that of private detective. Cynthia Crossen


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plural quintessentials
: a quintessential element : something that is a typical part or pure example
usually plural
The quintessentials—ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, and mustard—that characterize classic American barbecue sauce can be found in this dish.Betty Rosbottom
The quintessentials of a culture become all the more noticeable and absorbing if they are perceived as in danger of disappearing or as an obstacle to progress that must disappear.Steve J. Stern

Did you know?

Quintessential and the Elements

The philosophers and scientists of the ancient world and the Middle Ages believed that the world we inhabit was entirely made up of four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Aristotle added a fifth element, the aether or ether, by which he meant the material that fills the rest of space, mostly invisibly but sometimes taking the form of stars and planets. Many writers described the element as a kind of invisible light or fire. In the Middle Ages, it was referred to as the quinta essentia ("fifth element"). It isn't surprising that the quinta essentia came to stand for anything so perfect that it seemed to surpass the limitations of earth. Today we generally use quintessential rather freely to describe just about anything that represents the best of its kind.

Examples of quintessential in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Founded by late Times critic Jonathan Gold, the 101 was created as a quintessential guide to the places that exemplify Southern California food culture. Los Angeles Times, 16 Nov. 2023 And then of course, there were her athletic looks: With her bicycle shorts and oversize crewneck sweatshirts, Diana often wore quintessential ’90s tortoise oval sunglasses. Megan O'Sullivan, Vogue, 16 Nov. 2023 Confidence: Medium-High Sunday is the quintessential late fall day; lots of sun, light winds and highs in the low to mid-50s. David Streit, Washington Post, 16 Nov. 2023 But our second day would deliver much more of the quintessential landscape that makes racing in Baja so challenging. Northward out of Loreto, the hills tightened in and rocky washes transitioned into smaller sections of technical climbing interspersed with silt flats. Michael Van Runkle, Robb Report, 15 Nov. 2023 But this New Orleans red beans and rice recipe perfectly captures the simple perfection that defines the quintessential Southern dish. Southern Living Test Kitchen, Southern Living, 11 Nov. 2023 Price at time of publish: $38 Product Details: Size: 13.75 ounces | Burn Time: 60-80 hours | Wax Type: Soy Pottery Barn Glass Ornament Scented Candles View On Pottery Barn Ornaments are a quintessential part of the holidays, filling your home with sparkle, color, and dimension. L. Daniela Alvarez, Better Homes & Gardens, 27 Oct. 2023 There are three saltwater pools, bocce courts, and quintessential Tommy Bahama design details throughout the resort. Patricia Doherty, Travel + Leisure, 1 Nov. 2023 Rich but not too dense, the iced drink is the quintessential (yet subtle!) holiday drink. Antonia Debianchi, Peoplemag, 1 Nov. 2023
Strong, stout and substantial in size, the fossil species featured the same powerful legs, long feet and lengthy tail quintessential of kangaroos today. Sam Walters, Discover Magazine, 29 June 2022 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use


1551, in the meaning defined above


1853, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of quintessential was in 1551

Dictionary Entries Near quintessential

Cite this Entry

“Quintessential.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/quintessential. Accessed 30 Nov. 2023.

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