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PIE word

From Middle English, borrowed from Middle French, from Medieval Latin quinta essentia (fifth essence, aether). "Essence" in this context is a synonym for "element". In pre-atomic/Aristotlean theory, there are four known elements or essences — Earth, Air, Fire and Water — and a putative fifth element (aether), which is considered to be of exceptional superior quality to the other four basic elements.


  • enPR: kwĭn-tĕsʹ-əns, kwĭn-tĕsʹ-ĭns, IPA(key): /kwɪn.ˈtɛs.əns/, /kwɪn.ˈtɛs.ɪns/


quintessence (countable and uncountable, plural quintessences)

  1. A thing that is the most perfect example of its type; the most perfect embodiment of something; epitome, prototype.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:model
  2. A pure substance.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:non-mixture
    (Can we add an example for this sense?)
  3. The essence of a thing in its purest and most concentrated form.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:gist
    • 1599, T[homas] M[offett], The Silkewormes, and Their Flies: [], London: [] V[alentine] S[immes] for Nicholas Ling, [], →OCLC, pages 67–68:
      For vvhat is ſilke but eu'n a Quinteſſence, / Made vvithout hands beyond al humane ſenſe? / A quinteſſence? nay vvel it may be call'd, / A deathleſſe tincture, ſent vs from the skies, / VVhoſe colour ſtands, vvhose gloſſe is ne're appalld, []
    • 1667, John Milton, “Book VII”, in Paradise Lost. [], London: [] [Samuel Simmons], [], →OCLC; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: [], London: Basil Montagu Pickering [], 1873, →OCLC, lines 243–245:
      Let ther be Light, ſaid God, and forthwith Light, / Ethereal, firſt of things, quinteſſence pure, / Sprung from the Deep, []
  4. (alchemy) The fifth alchemical element, or essence, after earth, air, fire, and water that fills the universe beyond the terrestrial sphere.
    Synonym: aether
  5. (physics) A hypothetical form of dark energy postulated to explain observations of an accelerating universe.

Derived terms[edit]



quintessence (third-person singular simple present quintessences, present participle quintessencing, simple past and past participle quintessenced)

  1. (transitive) To reduce to its purest and most concentrated essence.




  • IPA(key): /kɛ̃.tɛ.sɑ̃s/, /kɛ̃.te.sɑ̃s/
  • (file)


quintessence f (plural quintessences)

  1. quintessence (all senses)

Further reading[edit]