adjective quix·ot·ic \kwik-ˈsä-tik\

Definition of quixotic

  1. 1 :  foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals; especially :  marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action

  2. 2 :  capricious, unpredictable


play \kwik-ˈsä-ti-kəl\ adjective


play \kwik-ˈsä-ti-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

quixotic was our Word of the Day on 10/29/2014. Hear the podcast!

Examples of quixotic in a sentence

  1. In … an earnest book-length essay of neo-Victorian public-mindedness that deplores the “nasty, knowing abuse” that the author would have us fear contaminates too much American humor lately, David Denby, a movie critic for The New Yorker, sets for himself what has to be one of the most quixotic projects that a moral reformer can undertake. —Walter Kirn, New York Times Book Review, 22 Feb. 2009

  2. The history of biblical oil prospecting is filled with quixotic quests and colorful characters, starting with Welsie Hancock, a wealthy California man who in the 1960s dreamed that Jesus told him he would find black gold in the Holy Land. He sunk his entire fortune into two dry holes. —Mariah Blake, Mother Jones, January and February 2008

  3. Mumey had announced his candidacy as an independent in the partisan election, which meant that he needed 2,300 signatures of registered voters in order to get on the ballot in the fall. It seemed a quixotic adventure, given the small size of Celebration and Mumey's lack of name recognition outside the town. —Douglas Frantz et al., Celebration, USA, 1999

  4. They had quixotic dreams about the future.

  5. in this age of giant chain stores, any attempt at operating an independent bookstore must be regarded as quixotic

Did You Know?

If you guessed that quixotic has something to do with Don Quixote, you're absolutely right. The hero of the 17th-century Spanish novel El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha (by Miguel de Cervantes) didn't change the world by tilting at windmills, but he did leave a linguistic legacy in English. The adjective quixotic is based on his name and has been used to describe unrealistic idealists since at least the early 18th century. The novel has given English other words as well. Dulcinea, the name of Quixote's beloved, has come to mean mistress or sweetheart, and rosinante, which is sometimes used to refer to an old, broken-down horse, comes from the name of the hero's less-than-gallant steed.

Origin and Etymology of quixotic

Don Quixote

First Known Use: 1718

Synonym Discussion of quixotic

imaginary, fanciful, visionary, fantastic, chimerical, quixotic mean unreal or unbelievable. imaginary applies to something which is fictitious and purely the product of one's imagination an imaginary desert isle. fanciful suggests the free play of the imagination a teller of fanciful stories. visionary stresses impracticality or incapability of realization visionary schemes. fantastic implies incredibility or strangeness beyond belief a fantastic world inhabited by monsters. chimerical combines the implication of visionary and fantastic chimerical dreams of future progress. quixotic implies a devotion to romantic or chivalrous ideals unrestrained by ordinary prudence and common sense a quixotic crusade.

QUIXOTIC Defined for English Language Learners


adjective quix·ot·ic \kwik-ˈsä-tik\

Definition of quixotic for English Language Learners

  • : hopeful or romantic in a way that is not practical

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capable of being understood in two ways

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