quid pro quo

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Borrowed from Latin quid prō quō (literally something for something).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˌkwɪd.pɹəʊˈkwəʊ/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˌkwɪd.pɹoʊˈkwoʊ/
  • (file)


quid pro quo (plural quae pro quibus or quid pro quibus or quid pro quos)

  1. Something which is understood as something else; an equivocation.
  2. (historical) Substitution of one drug for another.
    • 1621-51, Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy:
      a knave Apothecary that administers the Physick, and makes the medicine, may doe infinite harme, by his old obsolete doses, adulterine druggs, bad mixtures, quid pro quo, etc.
    • 1889, Johann Hermann Baas, Henry Ebenezer Handerson, Outlines of the History of Medicine and the Medical Profession, page 263:
      Nicholas [Praepositus] was also the author of a "Quid pro Quo", that is an alphabetically arranged catalogue of equivalent drugs, capable of replacing each other, when for any reason one or the other drug was wanting
    • 1917, Otto Raubenheimer, “History of Substitutes and Substitution”, in Druggists Circular, volume 61, page 188:
      Was it not Claudius Galenus (130-200 A. D.), the great Roman physician-pharmacist, who was about the very first to prepare a lengthy list of drugs, quid pro quo, a list which remained in use until about the sixteenth century?
  3. Something which is offered or asked for in exchange for something else.
    • 1819, The Parliamentary History of England from the Earliest Period to the Year 1803, volume 35, page 1129:
      To him I offered a quid pro quo; and meant to give nothing without getting a full equivalent.
    • 2001, Authority and Upheaval in Leipzig, 1910-1920, page 148:
      Whie Demanding Great sacrifices from the workforce, Germany's rulers had proved unable by autumn 1916 to offer a quid pro quo in the form of a military victory, more democracy, or even a modest redistribution of income.
    • 2007, Associated Press, “Iran to release 15 British sailors”, in China Daily:
      Britain, which said its crew was in Iraqi waters when seized, insists it never offered a quid pro quo, either, instead relying on quiet diplomacy.
    • 2012 March 24, Steve Denning, “The World Bank Is Broken: Can The New President Fix It?”, in Forbes:
      the US recently supported the European candidate for the IMF and may receive a quid pro quo
    • 2009 November 16, Andrew Benson, “What Mercedes buy-out of Brawn could mean”, in BBC Sport:
      McLaren did not want Mercedes to buy Brawn so when the German company insisted, they demanded a quid pro quo that, as far as McLaren are concerned, contains all the positives of a Mercedes involvement but none of the negatives.
    • 2014, Lois P. Frankel, Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office:
      People don't like to talk about it, but inherent to every relationship there's a quid pro quo— something that's exchanged in return for something else. The quid pro quo can be obvious, such as I give you a salary and in return I expect you to do a good job, or more subtly, I give you a recommendation and in turn expect you'll help me get my expense check processed faster. It's an unspoken system of bartering that goes on in relationships. Women aren't very good at capitalizing on the quid pro quo. Instead, they give away favors and expect little or nothing in return.
  4. A usually non-monetary exchange transaction, or series or process of exchange transactions.
    • 1997, Davita Silfen Glasberg, Daniel L. Skidmore, Corporate Welfare Policy and the Welfare State, page 138:
      More importantly, the Chrysler bailout produced a quid pro quo wherein Congress agreed to pass bank deregulation legislation if banks agreed to convert substantial amounts of Chrysler's debt to equity.
    • 2004, Lisbeth S. Fried, The Priest and the Great King: Temple-palace Relations in the Persian Empire, page 74:
      The apparent exception at the Temple of Neith at Sais is likely due to an agreement, a quid pro quo, made with Udjahorresnet, not to a failure to enact the command immediately.
    • 2006, John Cibinic, Jr., Ralph C. Nash, James F. Nagle, Administration of Government Contracts, page 84:
      The requisite intent is proved by showing a quid pro quo—an expectation of a favorable official act in return for the bribe.
    • 2011 December 14, Susan T. Spencer, “Business Networking That Works ... It's Called Quid Pro Quo”, in Forbes:
      I call it quid pro quo while other authors have described it as “the art of reciprocity.”
    • 2012, Jody Blazek, Tax Planning and Compliance for Tax-Exempt Organizations:
      Neither the envelope nor the entry form indicated whether a donation was enclosed. Because there was no obligation to pay to enter the sweepstakes, payments voluntarily sent were fully deductible. No quid pro quo occurred.
    • 2016 July 13, Robert Anello, “SCOTUS Quid Pro Quo Analysis in McDonnell May Broadly Affect Bribery & Insider Trading Prosecutions”, in Forbes:
      All are based on the concept of quid pro quo, or “this for that” – the exchange of one thing for another.  []  In McDonnell, the government alleged a quid pro quo sale of “official action” – payments (the quid) made to McDonnell, the former governor of Virginia, in return for a promise or undertaking by McDonnell to perform an official action (the quo). The Court’s decision focused on the quo side of the equation – a side that does not often receive much scrutiny – analyzing the contours of whether the actions taken by McDonnell constituted illegal “official actions.”
    • 2019 March 4, “Phillipsburg council calls for new investigation of alleged quid pro quo”, in 69 News:
      Council says the mayor and a former councilman may have engaged in a "quid pro quo." / []  / Council says, according to a handwritten note, Fey offered to support a pay raise for Mayor Ellis if Ellis would support a raise or a job appointment for Fey's wife, Gina.
    • 2018, Vicki Grant, Quid Pro Quo:
      All I'm asking for is a little quid pro quo. You know—you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.
    1. An equal or fair transaction or series of process of exchange transactions; tit for tat.
      • 1837, United States. Congress, The Congressional Globe, page 1977:
        Mr. P. did not consider that branch, strictly and technically speaking, public revenue; at least it did not arise from taxation, because those persons who had paid this money had received a full equivalent for the same; there was a quid pro quo on both sides; and this was not taxation, it was a sale; the parties therefore from whom this money was derived had not been taxed.
      • 1988, Industrial R&D and U.S. Technological Leadership:
        What we should do, however, is insist that there be a quid pro quo — an equal exchange.
      • 2014, Zephyr Teachout, Corruption in America, page 239:
        Most of those cases were about witness immunity deals (was there a quid pro quo?) or the meaning of quid pro quo in the classic “equality of exchange” sense.
      • 2013 May 21, Nehginpao Kipgen, “Quid Pro Quo Diplomacy in US-Myanmar Relations”, in Foreign Policy Journal:
        US-Myanmar relations in the past few years have been largely based on a quid pro quo or tit for tat strategy. Some analysts also call it action for action or give and take strategy.
  5. (law) Sexual harassment in which a person in a workplace implicitly or explicitly requires sexual favours in exchange for something.
    • 2008, Ronald W. Scott, Promoting Legal and Ethical Awareness, page 140:
      A quid pro quo complaint typically is lodged by an employee who has been denied opportunities because he or she refused a perpetrator's sexual advances or by an employee who has been denied opportunities because another employee obtained those opportunities by submitting to a perpetrator's sexual advances.
    • 2009, Frank Dobbin, Inventing Equal Opportunity:
      As for a legal remedy to the problem of harassment, the Court found that a proper, well-advertised grievance procedure could be used in a defense where sexual comments and horseplay created a “hostile environment,” but not in the quid pro quo cases that feminist Catharine MacKinnon had dubbed "put out or get out."
    • 2018, Walter B. Connolly, Jr., Michael J. Connolly, Joshua Feinstein, A Practical Guide to Equal Employment Opportunity, page 161:
      American courts have recognized two forms of sexual harassment. In the first, quid pro quo cases, the violation occurs when an employer or supervisor conditions an employment benefit on the employee's providing sexual favors.



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