quix·​ot·​ic kwik-ˈsä-tik How to pronounce quixotic (audio)
: foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals
especially : marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action
quixotical adjective
quixotically adverb

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Quixotic Has Roots in Literature

If you guessed that quixotic has something to do with Don Quixote, you're absolutely right. The hero of Miguel de Cervantes' 17th-century Spanish novel El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha (in English "The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha")  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, Rocinante.

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Example Sentences

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 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 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 They had quixotic dreams about the future. in this age of giant chain stores, any attempt at operating an independent bookstore must be regarded as quixotic
Recent Examples on the Web Former President Donald Trump's heavy use of the platform, especially during his quixotic effort to overturn the 2020 election results, is just one of many examples of how Twitter misinformation has been weaponized. PCMAG, 25 Oct. 2022 In 2016, McMullin launched a quixotic presidential bid as an alternative to Trump and Hillary Clinton. Emily Anderson Stern, The Salt Lake Tribune, 17 Oct. 2022 Living in Los Angeles requires a perpetual chase of beauty, a quixotic attempt to reach goal posts that keep moving in front of us. Kayla James, Los Angeles Times, 21 Apr. 2022 And yet, that’s also her quixotic objective throughout. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, 14 Aug. 2022 The battle is now quixotic or, put another way, performative. Tunku Varadarajan, WSJ, 12 Aug. 2022 So far, that scrutiny has raised a lot of questions about Musk's conduct, even beyond his daily outbursts on Twitter and occasional quixotic corporate raiding. Allison Morrow, CNN, 25 July 2022 But in a podcast interview in May with Joe Oltmann, a right-wing activist in Colorado, Griffin placed his outwardly quixotic actions in the context of a sort of domino theory of how the 2020 election might still be overturned. New York Times, 19 July 2022 Instead of their usual quixotic quest, Utah Democrats declined to send a nominee to the ballot this year, clearing the way for a one-on-one contest between the Republican nominee and independent candidate Evan McMullin. Bryan Schott, The Salt Lake Tribune, 28 June 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'quixotic.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Don Quixote

First Known Use

1718, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of quixotic was in 1718


Dictionary Entries Near quixotic

Cite this Entry

“Quixotic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/quixotic. Accessed 29 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition



quix·​ot·​ic kwik-ˈsät-ik How to pronounce quixotic (audio)
: impractical especially in the foolish pursuit of ideals
quixotically adverb

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