quod·​li·​bet ˈkwäd-lə-ˌbet How to pronounce quodlibet (audio)
: a philosophical or theological point proposed for disputation
also : a disputation on such a point
: a whimsical combination of familiar melodies or texts

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The Origin of Quodlibet

"Whatever." Try to get philosophical nowadays and that may be the response you hear. We don't know if someone quibbling over a minor philosophical or theological point 600 years ago might have gotten a similar reaction, but we do know that Latin quodlibet, meaning "any whatever," was the name given to such academic debates. Quodlibet is a form of quilibet, from qui, meaning "what," and libet, meaning "it pleases." We can't say with certainty how quodlibet went from disputations to musical conglomerations, but English speakers have been using quodlibet for light musical mélanges since the early 19th century.

Word History


Middle English, from Medieval Latin quodlibetum, from Latin quodlibet, neuter of quilibet any whatever, from qui who, what + libet it pleases, from libēre to please — more at who, love

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of quodlibet was in the 14th century


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Cite this Entry

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

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