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
quintessentialplay \ˌkwin-tə-ˈsen(t)-shəl\ adjective
quintessence was our Word of the Day on 01/06/2013. Hear the podcast!
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 of quintessence from the Web
Adeney is a kind of human optimization machine, the quintessence of that urge, which is stronger in some of us than in others, to elevate principle over appetite, and to seek out better, cheaper ways of doing things.
The end of the flavor rounds on my tongue—the quintessence of satisfaction.
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.
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.
Origin and Etymology of quintessence
Middle English, from Middle French quinte essence, from Medieval Latin quinta essentia, literally, fifth essence
First Known Use: 15th centurySee Words from the same year
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up quintessence? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).