sine qua non

si·​ne qua non | \ ˌsi-ni-ˌkwä-ˈnän How to pronounce sine qua non (audio) , -ˈnōn also ˌsē-; also ˌsī-ni-ˌkwā-ˈnän How to pronounce sine qua non (audio) \
plural sine qua nons also sine quibus non\ -​ˌkwi-​(ˌ)bu̇s-​ How to pronounce sine quibus non (audio) also  -​ˌkwī-​ \

Definition of sine qua non

: something absolutely indispensable or essential reliability is a sine qua non for success

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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 Still, none of these titles is without challenges for a company that has made winning best picture the sine qua non of its movie ambitions. Stephen Galloway, The Hollywood Reporter, "Oscars: Can Netflix Land Three Best Picture Nominations?," 7 Nov. 2019 Graduating from Harvard, contrary to what its students and administrators may think, is not the sine qua non of a good life. Heather Mac Donald, WSJ, "Who ‘Deserves’ to Go to Harvard?," 13 June 2019 Helium-3, given its massive potential implications for nuclear power, is sometimes considered the sine qua non of lunar resources. Jack H. Burke, National Review, "China’s New Wealth-Creation Scheme: Mining the Moon," 13 June 2019 But if patriotic appeals are simply the sine qua non of politics in this country, the historicist tone of America’s crisis talk is nevertheless puzzling. Adam Tooze, The New York Review of Books, "Democracy and Its Discontents," 6 June 2019 Gunn wanted answers, and instruments were the sine qua non. Quanta Magazine, "The Astronomer Who’d Rather Build Space Cameras," 18 Apr. 2019 The sine qua non of an impeachment investigation, to say nothing of actual votes to charge and remove the President, is a Democratic takeover of the House in the November elections. Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker, "Will the Fervor for Impeachment Start a Democratic Civil War?," 19 May 2018 The Trump administration says accepting quotas is a sine qua non. Tory Newmyer, Washington Post, "The Finance 202: There's no easy way out of Trump's trade feud with Europe," 2 May 2018 Emotional, as well as factual, honesty is the sine qua non of a memoir. Melanie Thernstrom, New York Times, "Can Sobriety Be as Interesting as Addiction? A Writer Wonders," 17 Apr. 2018

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

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First Known Use of sine qua non

1602, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for sine qua non

Late Latin, without which not

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Time Traveler for sine qua non

Time Traveler

The first known use of sine qua non was in 1602

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Cite this Entry

“Sine qua non.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for sine qua non

sine qua non

How to pronounce sine qua non (audio) How to pronounce sine qua non (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of sine qua non

formal : something that is absolutely needed

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