Merriam Webster Word of the Day: Quiddity

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The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is quiddity. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Quiddity refers to the essence of a thing—that is, whatever makes something the type of thing that it is. Quiddity can also refer to a small and usually trivial complaint or criticism, or to a quirk or eccentricity in someone’s behavior.

// The novelist’s genius was her unparalleled ability to capture the quiddity of the Maine seacoast in simple prose.

// He portrayed the character’s quirks and quiddities with tender playfulness.

QUIDDITY in Context

“This is typical [of author Karl Ove] Knausgaard. He observes a subject so closely, mining so far into its essence—its quiddity—that the observations transcend banality and become compelling. In other words, he draws the space between the objects.” — Peter Murphy, The Irish Times, 20 Mar. 2018

Did You Know?

When it comes to synonyms of quiddity, the Q’s have it. Consider quintessence, a synonym of the “essence of a thing” meaning of quiddity, and quibble, a synonym of the “trifling point” use. And let’s not forget about quirk: like quiddityquirk can refer to a person’s eccentricities. Of course, quiddity also comes from a “Q” word, the Latin pronoun quis, which is one of two Latin words for “who” (the other is qui). Quid, the neuter form of quis, led to the Medieval Latin quidditas, which means “essence,” a term that was essential to the development of the English word quiddity.

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