View synonyms for quid pro quo

quid pro quo

[ kwid proh kwoh ]


, plural quid pro quos, quids pro quo.
  1. something that is given or taken in return for something else.

quid pro quo

/ ˈkwɪd prəʊ ˈkwəʊ /


  1. a reciprocal exchange
  2. something given in compensation, esp an advantage or object given in exchange for another
“Collins English Dictionary — Complete & Unabridged” 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

quid pro quo

  1. A fair exchange; the phrase is most frequently used in diplomacy: “The Chinese may make some concessions on trade, but they will no doubt demand a quid pro quo, so we must be prepared to make concessions too.” From Latin , meaning “something for something.”

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Word History and Origins

Origin of quid pro quo1

First recorded in 1555–65; Latin quid prō quō, literally, “what for what, something for something”; pro 1none, quiddity none, status quo
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Word History and Origins

Origin of quid pro quo1

C16: from Latin: something for something
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Idioms and Phrases

An equal exchange or substitution, as in I think it should be quid pro quo—you mow the lawn and I'll take you to the movies . This Latin expression, meaning “something for something,” has been used in English since the late 1500s.
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Compare Meanings

How does quid pro quo compare to similar and commonly confused words? Explore the most common comparisons:

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Example Sentences

The government defends the law as necessary to prevent the appearance of quid pro quo corruption.

Washington can’t always tell folks beyond the Beltway what to do, but it can still get results through quid pro quo.

From Time

Similar accusations against the bloc of school board members were levied in the ethics reports, which accused them of steering contracts, doing political favors and engaging in a quid pro quo with a labor union.

The reports accuse a majority of elected school board members of a variety of offenses, including steering contracts, doing political favors and engaging in a quid pro quo with a labor union.

At worst, it opens the door to backroom quid pro quo to water down important legislation.

“The U.S. is going to want to keep these as separate issues and not link them formally with a quid pro quo,” he said.

The Court has upheld limits on individual contributions to avoid quid pro quo corruption or the “appearance of corruption.”

The Budapest document makes sense historically only as a quid pro quo agreement resting upon American credibility to act.

The Supreme Court only accepts one justification for limiting political speech: quid pro quo corruption or the appearance thereof.

Fully 29 examples—almost five times the number of “quid pro quo” examples—were cases of “improper dependence.”

"I quite admit that; but you've always received a quid pro quo," the general snapped.

This quid pro quo went on for some five minutes before I discovered that here the secret police service is called "the railway."

He had bestowed himself without receiving the due quid pro quo.

As many symptoms are common to several diseases, I took not infrequently quid pro quo.

The ''cute trick' upon the honest farmer was capital, and a fair quid pro quo.


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More About Quid Pro Quo

What does quid pro quo mean?

Tit for tat. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. Or, if you want to get a little fancier, quid pro quo.

This is a Latin-derived expression referring to something done for someone in exchange for something of equal value in return.

Where does quid pro quo come from?

In Latin, quid pro quo literally means “something for something” or “one thing for another.”

The expression was notably used in the Middle Ages by apothecaries who were figuring out what substances may be substituted for another (quid pro quo) in medicines. The phrase was added to a 1535 English translation of Dutch humanist Erasmus, who apparently questioned the questionable quid-pro-quoing of these quacks.

By the late 1500s, quid pro quo spread from medicine into general contexts for a “tit for tat.” A 17th century history on the reign of King Charles, for instance, described Christianity as a quid pro quo in that people must repent for redemption.

Quid pro quo especially made its way into legal, political, and commercial texts by the 19th century, a useful shorthand for all sorts of reciprocal exchanges.

Since the late 20th century in labor law, quid pro quo is widely used as a name for a type of workplace sexual harassment in which an employer holds an employee’s job hostage in return for sexual favors.

How is quid pro quo used in real life?

Quid pro quo can be used as a noun (e.g., we have a quid pro quo with our landlord) or as a modifier (e.g., we have a quid pro quo deal with our client). Either way, the phrase is used in everyday speech and writing generally to mean “trade,” “exchange,” or “agreement.”

In business contexts, quid pro quo can have a positive or neutral connotation, characterizing a fair contract involving the exchange of goods or services for compensation.

In political contexts, however, quid pro quo reeks of corruption, where quid pro quo arrangements with lobbyists suggests bribery or “pay-to-play.”

More examples of quid pro quo:

“Police investigators rolled into the Prime Minister’s Residence Tuesday morning to interrogate Benjamin Netanyahu in the high-profile Bezeq graft probe, having acquired new evidence from a key state’s witness reportedly implicating him in an illicit quid pro quo deal.”
—Raoul Wootliff, The Times of Israel, June, 2018


This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.