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From Middle English, borrowed from Middle French, from Medieval Latin quinta essentia (fifth essence, aether). "Essence" in this context is a synonym for "element". In pre-atomic/Aristotlean theory, there are four known elements or essences — Earth, Air, Fire and Water — and a putative fifth element (aether), which is considered to be of exceptional superior quality to the other four basic elements.


  • enPR: kwĭn-tĕsʹ-əns, kwĭn-tĕsʹ-ĭns, IPA(key): /kwɪn.ˈtɛs.əns/, /kwɪn.ˈtɛs.ɨns/


quintessence (countable and uncountable, plural quintessences)

  1. A thing that is the most perfect example of its type; the most perfect embodiment of something; epitome, prototype.
    • 1837 Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution: A History
      As families and kindreds sometimes do; producing, after long ages of unnoted notability, some living quintescence of all the qualities they had, to flame forth as a man world-noted[.]
  2. A pure substance.
    (Can we add an example for this sense?)
  3. The essence of a thing in its purest and most concentrated form.
    (Can we add an example for this sense?)
  4. (alchemy) The fifth alchemical element, or essence, after earth, air, fire, and water
  5. (physics) A hypothetical form of dark energy postulated to explain observations of an accelerating universe.


Derived termsEdit



quintessence (third-person singular simple present quintessences, present participle quintessencing, simple past and past participle quintessenced)

  1. (transitive) To reduce to its purest and most concentrated essence.




quintessence f (plural quintessences)

  1. quintessence (all senses)