Q is for Quintessential

   Posted by: Faith   in Everything Else

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter ‘Q’, which I spent far too much time thinking about… mostly because I had no idea what to write this post about. And I’m still behind on the challenge (but that’s nothing new).

So, we’re going to take a few moments to look at a commonly misused word! Yay, words!

Our word for the day is: Quintessential.

Here’s the definition from dictionary.com:This is 'Quintessential Barbie'. Yay Mattel for correct word usage!

Quintessence –noun

1. the pure and concentrated essence of a substance.

2. the most perfect embodiment of something.

3. (in ancient and medieval philosophy) the fifth essence orelement, ether, supposed to be the constituent matter of theheavenly bodies, the others being air, fire, earth, and water.

And how about from Merriam-Webster online?

Quintessence –noun

1: the fifth and highest element in ancient and medieval philosophy that permeates all nature and is the substance composing the celestial bodies

2: the essence of a thing in its purest and most concentrated form

3: the most typical example or representative <the quintessence of calm>

The adjectival form of the word is ‘quintessential’. But ask yourself this: When was the last time you used this word, intending it to mean “the most important thing”?

I’ve heard people describe something and use ‘quintessential’ like this: “The painting was absolutely beautiful, but the quintessential element was the brushstroke technique.”

Or like this: “Flour, sugar, and water are the main parts of this recipe, but the quintessential ingredient is the chocolate!”

These examples use the word to convey that something is the most essential. But, as you can see from the definitions above, that’s the incorrect way to use the word! And now you know. :D

When was the last time you tried to explain that something was the ‘most essential’ by using ‘quintessential’ instead? Are there any other common words you’ve misused before? :)

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 20th, 2011 at 1:45 pm and is filed under Everything Else. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 comments so far


This is the word I was going to post with for Q but had a change of heart. Great word, I love the sound of it!

April 25th, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Thanks! Great minds think alike, it seems ;)

April 26th, 2011 at 4:25 am