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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.ɨns/


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
    • 1837 Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution: A History
      As families and kindreds sometimes do; producing, after long ages of unnoted notability, some living quintescence of all the qualities they had, to flame forth as a man world-noted[.]
  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
    • 1667, John Milton, “Book VII”, in Paradise Lost. A Poem Written in Ten Books, London: Printed [by Samuel Simmons], and are to be sold by Peter Parker [] [a]nd by Robert Boulter [] [a]nd Matthias Walker, [], OCLC 228722708; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: The Text Exactly Reproduced from the First Edition of 1667: [], London: Basil Montagu Pickering [], 1873, OCLC 230729554, 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
  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.




quintessence f (plural quintessences)

  1. quintessence (all senses)