sine qua non


si·​ne qua non ˌsi-ni-ˌkwä-ˈnän How to pronounce sine qua non (audio) -ˈnōn How to pronounce sine qua non (audio)
 also  ˌsē-;
 also  ˌsī-ni-ˌkwā-ˈnän
plural sine qua nons also sine quibus non -ˌkwi-(ˌ)bu̇s- How to pronounce sine qua non (audio)
 also  -ˌkwī-
: something absolutely indispensable or essential
reliability is a sine qua non for success

Did you know?

Sine qua non can be translated literally as "Without which, not." Though this may sound like gibberish, it means more or less "Without (something), (something else) won't be possible." Sine qua non sounds slightly literary, and it shouldn't be used just anywhere. But it actually shows up in many contexts, including business ("A solid customer base is the sine qua non to success"), show business ("A good agent is a sine qua non for an actor's career"), and politics ("His support was really the sine qua non for her candidacy").

Examples of sine qua non in a Sentence

Patience is a sine qua non for this job. an extensive grounding in mathematics is a sine qua non for a career in architecture
Recent Examples on the Web As research makes clear, substantial flexibility is the sine qua non for employee engagement. Gleb Tsipursky, Fortune, 25 Sep. 2023 The research team determined that the finger holes had been made with a flint tool so precise that the holes could be sealed with a fingertip, the sine qua non of wind instruments. Franz Lidz, New York Times, 28 Aug. 2023 Oil is literally the basis of globalization, the sine qua non of human physical interaction. Jude Clemente, Forbes, 19 Feb. 2023 This has become Haugen’s emphatic sine qua non, her non-negotiable clause in every contract, whether business or personal. Gabriela Riccardi, Quartz, 6 July 2023 If, as virtually all reformers stress, a primary goal of a Supreme Court ethics reform exercise is to energize Congress to rebalance constitutional and political relations between Article I legislators and Article III judges, then codifying that power shift is a sine qua non. Simon Lazarus, The New Republic, 16 Mar. 2023 Obviously, the funding is a sine qua non for the project, but the federal government appears to have rediscovered large-scale infrastructure investment, evidenced by last year’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which will provide $550 billion over five years. Tom Condon, Hartford Courant, 6 Jan. 2023 That last one is a sine qua non. Neil Senturia, San Diego Union-Tribune, 7 Nov. 2022 Because he wasn’t built for life on land, Bunky lacked the sine qua non of frogdom: the ability to jump. Anne Fadiman, Harper’s Magazine , 10 Feb. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Late Latin, without which not

First Known Use

1602, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of sine qua non was in 1602

Dictionary Entries Near sine qua non

Cite this Entry

“Sine qua non.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!