• synonyms


[ kwin-tes-uh ns ]
/ kwɪnˈtɛs əns /


the pure and concentrated essence of a substance.
the most perfect embodiment of something.
(in ancient and medieval philosophy) the fifth essence or element, ether, supposed to be the constituent matter of the heavenly bodies, the others being air, fire, earth, and water.


apotheosis, heart, substance, gist, bottom, kernel, distillation, soul, pith, stuff, essentiality, ultimate, epitome, marrow, extract, spirit, lifeblood, quiddity, virtuality

Nearby words

quintant, quinte, quintefoil, quinternion, quintero, quintessence, quintessential, quintessentially, quintet, quintic, quintile

Origin of quintessence

1400–50; Middle English < Medieval Latin quīnta essentia fifth essence
Related formsquin·tes·sen·tial [kwin-tuh-sen-shuh l] /ˌkwɪn təˈsɛn ʃəl/, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for quintessence

British Dictionary definitions for quintessence


/ (kwɪnˈtɛsəns) /


the most typical representation of a quality, state, etc
an extract of a substance containing its principle in its most concentrated form
(in ancient and medieval philosophy) ether, the fifth and highest essence or element after earth, water, air, and fire, which was thought to be the constituent matter of the heavenly bodies and latent in all things

Word Origin for quintessence

C15: via French from Medieval Latin quinta essentia the fifth essence, translation of Greek pemptē ousia
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

Word Origin and History for quintessence



early 15c., in ancient and medieval philosophy, "pure essence, substance of which the heavenly bodies are composed," literally "fifth essence," from Middle French quinte essence (14c.), from Medieval Latin quinta essentia, from Latin quinta, fem. of quintus "fifth" (see quinque-) + essentia (see Parousia).

A loan-translation of Greek pempte ousia, the "ether" added by Aristotle to the four known elements (water, earth, fire, air) and said to permeate all things. Its extraction was one of the chief goals of alchemy. Sense of "purest essence" (of a situation, character, etc.) is first recorded 1580s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper