Definition of quintessence in English:


Syllabification: quin·tes·sence
Pronunciation: /kwinˈtesəns


  • 1The most perfect or typical example of a quality or class: he was the quintessence of political professionalism
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    • Previously I was playing a beautiful prelude in C sharp minor op. 45 by Chopin, a piece that is the quintessence of healing compassion, so my heart was full and my spirit was ready to heal.
    • Euro 2004 has begun on the right note, as a quintessence of football skills.
    • A commentary on the website of CBS, the nearest equivalent to the BBC for serious news in the US, summed up: ‘Diana was the quintessence of cool’.
    perfect example, exemplar, prototype, stereotype, picture, epitome, embodiment, ideal, apotheosis; best, pick, prime, acme, crème de la crème
  • 1.1The aspect of something regarded as the intrinsic and central constituent of its character: we were all brought up to believe that advertising is the quintessence of marketing
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    • Played in its unadulterated form the venerable, patriotic tune has a divine character: Cameron managed to capture the quintessence of the song.
    • It pronounces: ‘the constant endeavour to achieve a balance between bodily and mental health was the quintessence of the Greek spirit’.
    • The Authorized Version became the quintessence of Englishness and an index of human character.
    essence, soul, spirit, nature, core, heart, crux, kernel, marrow, substance
    informal nitty-gritty
    Philosophy quiddity, esse
  • 1.2A refined essence or extract of a substance.
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    • Mercury was believed to possess magical properties and some regarded it as the quintessence of the human body and of all substances.
    • Some chemists now turned less to distilled quintessences and more to precipitates and residues in their search for new remedies.
  • 1.3(In classical and medieval philosophy) a fifth substance in addition to the four elements, thought to compose the heavenly bodies and to be latent in all things.
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    • Beyond the four elements, everything consisted of a fifth substance, the quintessence, which unlike them was not subject to any kind of change except locomotion, uniformly and in perfect circles.
    • In ancient philosophy, quintessence was believed to be the stuff of heavenly bodies, which Aristotle credited as divine, alive and intelligent.
    • The quintessence permeates the compost, soil and plants like astral perfume, and affects plant growth with subtle yet powerful forces of the cosmos.


late Middle English (as a term in philosophy): via French from medieval Latin quinta essentia 'fifth essence'.

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