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-​ \

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 Under identity politics, so much favored by the Democratic Party, diversity is the sine qua non. Joseph Epstein, WSJ, "The Tyranny of Diversity," 30 Dec. 2020 Stable money is a sine qua non of stable, prosperous, free societies. Eric Grover, National Review, "It’s Time to Rein in the Fed," 19 Sep. 2020 As the Latin phrase has it: sine qua non— without it nothing. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "The Capital Letter: Week of October 19," 23 Oct. 2020 After all, free trade between the states has been the sine qua non of American nationhood since the ratification of the Constitution in 1787. Cameron Hilditch, National Review, "Biden Is Wrong on Ireland and Brexit," 20 Sep. 2020 For decades, the triad has been the sine qua non of nuclear force structure. Jessica T. Mathews, The New York Review of Books, "The New Nuclear Threat," 22 July 2020 During these years—and for the first time in American history—a college degree became the sine qua non of middle-class stability and self-sufficiency. Jonathan Zimmerman, The New York Review of Books, "What Is College Worth?," 17 June 2020 Cheap access to space is the sine qua non of that ambition. The Economist, "Human space flight Flying people to the Space Station is SpaceX’s biggest deal yet," 30 May 2020 For Ruth, those games—gambling at the casinos and racetrack, drinking in the saloons, enjoying nights at the brothels—were the sine qua non of spring training. Randy Roberts And Johnny Smith, Smithsonian Magazine, "When Babe Ruth and the Great Influenza Gripped Boston," 30 Apr. 2020

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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Statistics for sine qua non

Last Updated

7 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Sine qua non.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for sine qua non

sine qua non


English Language Learners Definition of sine qua non

formal : something that is absolutely needed

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