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[kwin-tes-uh ns] /kwɪnˈtɛs əns/
the pure and concentrated essence of a substance.
the most perfect embodiment of something.
(in ancient and medieval philosophy) the fifth essence or element, ether, supposed to be the constituent matter of the heavenly bodies, the others being air, fire, earth, and water.
Origin of quintessence
1400-50; Middle English < Medieval Latin quīnta essentia fifth essence
Related forms
[kwin-tuh-sen-shuh l] /ˌkwɪn təˈsɛn ʃəl/ (Show IPA),
adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for quintessence
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • That faculty is the quintessence of statesmanship, as it is of wisdom, and one we never see displayed by a radical government!

  • To the man of the world they are the quintessence of his own reflections upon life.

    Theaetetus Plato
  • A quintessence and distillation of peace and comradeship seemed to inhabit the soft gloam of its chancel.

    War and the Weird Forbes Phillips
  • The law of compensation itself is the quintessence of horse sense.

    Dollars and Sense Col. Wm. C. Hunter
  • The good sense of Cephalas placed it among the epitaphs; for, in truth, it is the quintessence of the despair of the grave.

British Dictionary definitions for quintessence


the most typical representation of a quality, state, etc
an extract of a substance containing its principle in its most concentrated form
(in ancient and medieval philosophy) ether, the fifth and highest essence or element after earth, water, air, and fire, which was thought to be the constituent matter of the heavenly bodies and latent in all things
Word Origin
C15: via French from Medieval Latin quinta essentia the fifth essence, translation of Greek pemptē ousia
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for quintessence

early 15c., in ancient and medieval philosophy, "pure essence, substance of which the heavenly bodies are composed," literally "fifth essence," from Middle French quinte essence (14c.), from Medieval Latin quinta essentia, from Latin quinta, fem. of quintus "fifth" (see quinque-) + essentia (see Parousia).

A loan-translation of Greek pempte ousia, the "ether" added by Aristotle to the four known elements (water, earth, fire, air) and said to permeate all things. Its extraction was one of the chief goals of alchemy. Sense of "purest essence" (of a situation, character, etc.) is first recorded 1580s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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