quix·​ot·​ic kwik-ˈsä-tik How to pronounce quixotic (audio)
: foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals
especially : marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action
quixotical adjective
quixotically adverb

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Quixotic Has Roots in Literature

If you guessed that quixotic has something to do with Don Quixote, you're absolutely right. The hero of Miguel de Cervantes' 17th-century Spanish novel El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha (in English "The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha") didn't change the world by tilting at windmills, but he did leave a linguistic legacy in English. The adjective quixotic is based on his name and has been used to describe unrealistic idealists since at least the early 18th century. The novel has given English other words as well. Dulcinea, the name of Quixote's beloved, has come to mean "mistress" or "sweetheart," and rosinante, which is sometimes used to refer to an old horse, comes from the name of the hero's less-than-gallant steed, Rocinante.

Choose the Right Synonym for quixotic

imaginary, fanciful, visionary, fantastic, chimerical, quixotic mean unreal or unbelievable.

imaginary applies to something which is fictitious and purely the product of one's imagination.

an imaginary desert isle

fanciful suggests the free play of the imagination.

a teller of fanciful stories

visionary stresses impracticality or incapability of realization.

visionary schemes

fantastic implies incredibility or strangeness beyond belief.

a fantastic world inhabited by monsters

chimerical combines the implication of visionary and fantastic.

chimerical dreams of future progress

quixotic implies a devotion to romantic or chivalrous ideals unrestrained by ordinary prudence and common sense.

a quixotic crusade

Examples of quixotic in a Sentence

In … an earnest book-length essay of neo-Victorian public-mindedness that deplores the "nasty, knowing abuse" that the author would have us fear contaminates too much American humor lately, David Denby, a movie critic for The New Yorker, sets for himself what has to be one of the most quixotic projects that a moral reformer can undertake. Walter Kirn, New York Times Book Review, 22 Feb. 2009
The history of biblical oil prospecting is filled with quixotic quests and colorful characters, starting with Welsie Hancock, a wealthy California man who in the 1960s dreamed that Jesus told him he would find black gold in the Holy Land. He sunk his entire fortune into two dry holes. Mariah Blake, Mother Jones, January and February 2008
Mumey had announced his candidacy as an independent in the partisan election, which meant that he needed 2,300 signatures of registered voters in order to get on the ballot in the fall. It seemed a quixotic adventure, given the small size of Celebration and Mumey's lack of name recognition outside the town. Douglas Frantz et al., Celebration, USA, 1999
They had quixotic dreams about the future. in this age of giant chain stores, any attempt at operating an independent bookstore must be regarded as quixotic
Recent Examples on the Web Was the micronation a quixotic experiment in democracy or an elaborate improv comedy sketch? Fred Nadis, Smithsonian Magazine, 3 July 2024 Else, 35, was formerly known as Dustin Ebey before beginning his quixotic quest with a legal name change in Tarrant County earlier this year, Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA reported. Joseph Wilkinson, New York Daily News, 25 Mar. 2024 In today’s newsletter: Red light cameras, water funding and Mark Kelly’s quixotic quest. Joanna Allhands, The Arizona Republic, 18 Jan. 2024 Image Such old-school outreach may seem quixotic in the digital age. Sameer Yasir, New York Times, 28 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for quixotic 

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

Word History


Don Quixote

First Known Use

1718, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of quixotic was in 1718


Dictionary Entries Near quixotic

Cite this Entry

“Quixotic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/quixotic. Accessed 13 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


quix·​ot·​ic kwik-ˈsät-ik How to pronounce quixotic (audio)
: impractical especially in the foolish pursuit of ideals
quixotically adverb

from Don Quixote, hero of the novel Don Quixote de la Mancha by Cervantes

More from Merriam-Webster on quixotic

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