sine qua non

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Alternative forms[edit]


Borrowed from Latin [condiciō] sine quā nōn ([condition] without which not), an expression which originated in the works of Boethius as a translation of some Aristotelian expression (perhaps Ancient Greek οὗ οὐκ ἄνευ (hoû ouk áneu); compare also Modern Greek εκ των ων ουκ άνευ (ek ton on ouk ánef) / Katharevousa ἐκ τῶν ὧν οὐκ ἄνευ (ek tôn hôn ouk áneu)), and was later popularized by scholastics.


  • (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ˌsaɪnɪ kweɪ ˈnɒn/, /ˌsɪn(e)ɪ kwɑː ˈnəʊn/, /ˌsɪn(e)ɪ kwɑː ˈnɒn/
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  • (US) IPA(key): /ˌsɪni kwɑ ˈnɑn/, /ˌsɪni kwɑ ˈnoʊn/, /ˌsaɪni kweɪ ˈnɑn/
  • Rhymes: -ɒn, -əʊn


sine qua non (plural sine qua nons or sine quibus non)

  1. An essential or indispensable element, condition, or ingredient.
    Synonym: prerequisite
    • 1842, [anonymous collaborator of Letitia Elizabeth Landon], chapter XXIX, in Lady Anne Granard; or, Keeping up Appearances. [], volume II, London: Henry Colburn, [], →OCLC, page 79:
      it is hardly likely he would have found any one so singularly interesting and fascinating as Margarita Riccardini; for the striking and animated beauty of her father was softened and relieved by that peculiar something, half modesty, and half pride, which is the characteristic of English loveliness, and which every Englishman requires as a sine qua non ere he resigns himself to a bondage it is the habit of his nature, or the result of his privileges, to admit reluctantly.
    • 1883 January 12, James S[kipp] Borlase, “Darker than Death; a Tale of the Russia of To-day”, in The Hull Packet and East Riding Times, number 5,126, Kingston upon Hull, E.R.Y., chapter XVI (The Countess Takes Precautions and the Count Drives Bargains), page 3, column 3:
      Beauty, grace, and accomplishments are, as I said before, a sine qua non, but as Basil is already the colonel of a crack cavalry corps, and has other military honours promised him in the near future, as also by reason that his father is Governor-General of the gubernium of Odessa, and will leave his son abundant wealth as well as his title of count, I think I have a right to expect something more in his future wife than mere accomplishments and good looks.
    • 1909, Arnold Bennett, chapter I, in Literary Taste: How to Form It:
      Literature, instead of being an accessory, is the fundamental sine qua non of complete living.
    • 2000, A. Przeworski, M. Alvarez, J. Cheibub, F. Limongi, Democracy and Development, Cambridge University Press, page 34:
      [] whereas some degree of political freedom is a sine qua non condition for contestation, democracy cannot be sufficiently defined in terms of “liberties” []


Further reading[edit]


Portuguese Wikipedia has an article on:
Wikipedia pt


Unadapted borrowing from Latin [condiciō] sine quā nōn ([condition] without which not).



sine qua non (invariable)

  1. (of a prerequisite) indispensable