extravagantly chivalrous or romantic; visionary, impractical, or impracticable.
impulsive and often rashly unpredictable.
- Sometimes quix·ot·i·cal .
By 1644 Quixote was used as a common noun, that is, “a person inspired by lofty and chivalrous but impractical ideals.” The derivative adjective quixotic, which applies to both persons and actions, appears in the first half of the 18th century. Quixotic has always been ambivalent in its meaning, whether “extravagantly chivalrous or romantic; visionary or impractical,” or “impulsive and often rashly unpredictable.”
The original 17th-century spelling that Cervantes used was Quixote, at that time pronounced kiˈshoʊ-ti (French Quichotte and Italian Chisciotte still maintain the sh- sound). In 1815 the Real Academia Española (Royal Spanish Academy) officially changed the spellings of words with x to j to match the change of the sh- sound to the modern Castilian x- sound, as in Johann Sebastian Bach (bɑx) or the Scots pronunciation of loch (lɒx).
To an American ear, the Don in Don Quixote may come across as the man’s first name, but that is certainly not the case here. In Spanish, don is used as a title of respect and as a common noun meaning “gentleman,” a most appropriate description for Cervantes’ iconic hero. Don, which ultimately derives from Latin dominus “lord, master,” is also familiar as the courtesy title of the head of a crime family or syndicate, especially the Mafia (as in Don Corleone). Don evokes courtesy and respect in England as well, where it is used colloquially at Oxbridge for a head, fellow, or tutor of a college.
- quix·ot·i·cal·ly, adverb
- half-quix·ot·ic, adjective
- half-quix·ot·i·cal·ly, adverb
- un·quix·ot·ic, adjective
- un·quix·ot·i·cal, adjective
- un·quix·ot·i·cal·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023
How to use quixotic in a sentence
Yet his goofy, quixotic, quintessentially American optimism earned the character a following.Ted Lasso and TV's Strange Quest to Build the Perfect Man | Judy Berman | July 19, 2021 | Time
For months, he was semi-mocked for the seeming quixotic quirkiness of his coffee fasts and weight loss.No one beats Father Time, but Phil Mickelson has shown how to extend the match | Sally Jenkins | June 17, 2021 | Washington Post
The man who wants America to “think harder” has parlayed his quixotic presidential campaign into front-runner status in New York’s mayoral election.The Future of New York City Is in Question. Could Andrew Yang Be the Answer? (Ep. 462) | Stephen J. Dubner | May 13, 2021 | Freakonomics
With cities and states charting a declining demand for doses, some have turned to these audacious, outlandish and perhaps quixotic incentives to lure in vaccine apathetes.Beer, bouquets and free rounds at a gun range: How local governments promote vaccines | Reis Thebault, Paulina Firozi | May 6, 2021 | Washington Post
This broad group of politically homeless citizens is a tribe trying to transcend tribalism—and while that may sound quixotic, that is the story of America.Eight in Ten Americans are Concerned About Partisanship. Here's How 'The Unum Test' Can Reunite America | Jonathan Haidt | April 13, 2021 | Time
Some of his political actions can, in retrospect, seem quixotic, but they speak to an admirable courage of conviction.Nigeria’s Larger-Than-Life Nobel Laureate Chronicles a Fascinating Life | Chimamanda Adichie | August 9, 2014 | THE DAILY BEAST
“Dana has become increasingly quixotic through the years,” a GOP Hill source lamented to the Beast.Meet The Putin-Loving Congressman Who’s Worried About Fluoride In Our Drinking Water | James Kirchick | July 20, 2014 | THE DAILY BEAST
Resolve that this can and should be the year that zero preschoolers go hungry based on your quixotic grandstanding.
Of course, his quixotic crusade to defund Obamacare will surely fail, but it made for some good TV.Highlight Reel: 11 Craziest Moments From Ted Cruz’s Quasi-Filibuster | Ben Jacobs, The Daily Beast Video | September 25, 2013 | THE DAILY BEAST
In November 2007, though, Dutschke seemed to realize his campaign was quixotic.
It was quixotic, and two hundred years ago could scarcely have escaped the pen of some French Cervantes.
Success to you, but don't for a moment think of carrying out that quixotic plan you first mentioned.The Cromptons | Mary J. Holmes
The quixotic are rarely successful, and success is the measure by which everything is judged to-day.Spanish Life in Town and Country | L. Higgin and Eugne E. Street
Don Quixote was always doing generous but rather foolish things, and the adjective quixotic now describes this sort of action.Stories That Words Tell Us | Elizabeth O'Neill
She must not let herself be swept away by any quixotic sentiment.The Highgrader | William MacLeod Raine
British Dictionary definitions for quixotic
preoccupied with an unrealistically optimistic or chivalrous approach to life; impractically idealistic
- quixotically, adverb
- quixotism (ˈkwɪksəˌtɪzəm), noun
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