Trend Watch

Interviewee Claims State Dept. Official Offered a 'Quid Pro Quo' on Clinton Emails

The phrase means “this for that"

Two tweets by Donald Trump that used the term quid pro quo within the space of a day sent people to the dictionary to look up the meaning of the Latin phrase. Both tweets were on the subject of Hillary Clinton’s emails; the second used a Politico headline:

State Dept. official accused of offering 'quid pro quo' in Clinton email scandal

Quid pro quo means “something given or received for something else” or “this for that.” The Latin words literally mean “something for something,” and were used in this way as far back at the 4th century. It’s used frequently in legal contexts, but originally was used in English in the 1500s to refer to the substitution of one medicine for another—sometimes intentionally (as when a given medicine was unavailable) and sometimes fraudulently. It then came to mean “a substitution” or “a mistake” in a general way.

It’s a term that is used in non-legal contexts as well, like other Latin phrases such as pro bono, sine qua non, and status quo.

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