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    Q — quarter (n.2)


    16th letter of the classical Roman alphabet, occurring in English only before a -u- that is followed by another vowel (with a few exceptions; see below), whether the -u- is sounded or not (pique). The letter is from the Phoenician equivalent of Hebrew koph, qoph, which was used for the deeper and more guttural of the two "k" sounds in Semitic. The letter existed in early Greek (where there was no such distinction), and called koppa, but it was little used and not alphabetized; it mainly served as a sign of number (90).ETD Q.2

    The connection with -u- began in Latin. Anglo-Saxon scribes at first adopted the habit, but later used spellings with cw- or cu-. The qu- pattern returned to English with the Normans and French after the Conquest and had displaced cw- by c. 1300.ETD Q.3

    In some spelling variants of late Middle English, quh- also took work from wh-, especially in Scottish and northern dialects, for example Gavin Douglas, Provost of St. Giles, in his vernacular "Aeneid" of 1513:ETD Q.4

    Scholars use -q- alone to transliterate Semitic koph or the equivalent in Turkish or Iranian (as in Quran, Qatar, Iraq). In Christian theology, Q has been used since 1901 to signify the hypothetical source of passages shared by Matthew and Luke but not in Mark; in this sense probably it is an abbreviation of German Quelle "source" (from Old High German quella, from the same Proto-Germanic source as Old English cwiella, cwylla "spring; well"). In Middle English accounts, it is an abbreviation of quadrans "farthing" (mid-15c.). In Roman personal names it is an abbreviation of Quintus.ETD Q.5

    Q and A

    also Q & A, 1954 (adj.), abbreviation of question and answer (itself attested by 1817 as a noun, by 1839 as an adjective).ETD Q and A.2


    peninsula-state in the Persian Gulf, probably from Arabic katran "tar, resin," in reference to petroleum. The Romans knew it as Catara. Related: Qatari.ETD Qatar.2


    abbreviation of Latin quod est "which is."ETD q.e..2


    1760, abbreviation of Latin quod erat demonstrandum "which was to be demonstrated."ETD Q.E.D..2

    qi (n.)

    in Chinese philosophy, "physical life force," 1850, said to be from Chinese qi "air, breath."ETD qi (n.).2

    q.t. (n.)

    slang for "quiet," in phrase on the q.t., attested from 1874. Phrase on the quiet appears from 1847.ETD q.t. (n.).2


    see Q.ETD qu-.2


    "as, in the capacity of," from Latin qua "where? on which side? at which place? which way? in what direction?" figuratively "how? in what manner? by what method?; to what extent? in what degree?" correlative pronominal adverb of place (from PIE root *kwo-, stem of relative and interrogative pronouns).ETD qua.2

    Quaalude (n.)

    1965, proprietary name (trademark by Wm. H. Rorer Inc., Ft. Washington, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.) of methaqualone used as a sedative drug. The name is said to be based on quiet interlude.ETD Quaalude (n.).2

    quack (n.2)

    "duck sound; a harsh, croaking cry," 1839, from quack (v.). Earlier it meant "hoarseness, croaking" (late 14c.). Quack-quack as a nursery name for a duck is attested by 1865 (quack-quack-quack in that sense is by 1825).ETD quack (n.2).2

    quack (v.)

    "to make a duck sound; utter a harsh, flat, croaking cry," 1610s, earlier quake (late 14c.), variant of quelke (early 14c.), all of echoic origin (compare Middle Dutch quacken, Old Church Slavonic kvakati, Latin coaxare "to croak," Greek koax "the croaking of frogs," Hittite akuwakuwash "frog").ETD quack (v.).2

    In the same line of Chaucer, various early editions have it as quake, quakke, quak, quat. Frequentative form quackle is attested from 1560s. Middle English on the quakke (14c.) meant "hoarse, croaking." The sense of "talk or advertise noisily and ostentatiously" (1650s) might show influence of quack (n.1). Related: Quacked; quacking.ETD quack (v.).3

    quack (n.1)

    "medical charlatan, impudent and fraudulent pretender to medical skill," 1630s, short for quacksalver (1570s), from obsolete Dutch quacksalver (modern kwakzalver), literally "hawker of salve," from Middle Dutch quacken "to brag, boast," literally "to croak" (see quack (v.)) + salf "salve," salven "to rub with ointment" (see salve (n.)). As an adjective from 1650s.ETD quack (n.1).2

    The oldest attested form of this quack in English is as a verb, "to play the quack" (1620s). The Dutch word also is the source of German Quacksalber, Danish kvaksalver, Swedish kvacksalvare.ETD quack (n.1).3

    Also "one who pretends to knowledge of any kind" (1630s).ETD quack (n.1).4

    quacker (n.)

    "a duck," 1846, agent noun from quack (v.).ETD quacker (n.).2

    quackery (n.)

    "the boastful pretensions or knavish practice of a quack, particularly in medicine" [Century Dictionary], 1690s, from quack (n.1) + -ery.ETD quackery (n.).2

    quacksalver (n.)

    "one who boasts of skill in medicines, a medical charlatan," 1570s; see quack (n.1). The back-formed verb quacksalve (c. 1600) did not thrive.ETD quacksalver (n.).2


    1820 as a shortening of quadrangle (n.) in the building-court sense (in this case "quadrangle of a college," Oxford student slang); also in old slang the quadrangle of a jail or prison, where prisoners take their exercise. By 1880 as short for the printer's quadrat (n.). By 1896 as "a quadricycle, a bicycle for four riders" (quadricycle is attested by 1879, quadruplet in this sense by 1893). As "one of four young at a single birth" by 1951 (in reference to armadillos), short for quadruplet; 1970 as a shortening of quadraphonic (adj.). Related: Quads.ETD quad.2

    Quadragesima (n.)

    "Lent," c. 1600, from Medieval Latin quadragesima (dies) "the fortieth (day)," altered diminutive of Latin quadrigesimus "fortieth," from quadriginta "forty," related to quattuor "four" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four"). So called because it lasts forty days. Earlier in English in nativized form Quadragesime (mid-15c.). Related: Quadragesimal. Via the Vulgar Latin form *quaragesima come Old French quaresme, Modern French carême, Spanish cuaresma, Italian quaresima, also ultimately Irish carghas, Gaelic carghus, Welsh garaways.ETD Quadragesima (n.).2

    quadrangle (n.)

    late 14c., "a plane figure having four angles; a rectangle, square, etc.," from Old French quadrangle (13c.) and directly from Late Latin quadrangulum "four-sided figure," noun use of neuter of Latin adjective quadrangulus "having four corners," from Latin quattuor "four" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four") + angulus "angle" (see angle (n.)). Meaning "four-sided court nearly surrounded by buildings" is from 1590s.ETD quadrangle (n.).2

    quadrangular (adj.)

    "four-cornered, four-sided," early 15c., quadrangulere, from Medieval Latin quadrangularis "having four corners," from Late Latin quadrangulus "having four angles" (see quadrangle). Related: Quadrangularly.ETD quadrangular (adj.).2

    quadrant (n.)

    late 14c., "a quarter of a day, six hours," from Old French quadrant, cadran, name of a Roman coin, also "a sundial," from Latin quadrantem (nominative quadrans) "a fourth part, a quarter," also the name of a coin worth a quarter of an as; noun use of the present participle of quadrare "to make square; put in order, arrange, complete; run parallel, be exact," figuratively "to fit, suit, be proper," related to quadrus "a square," quattuor "four" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four").ETD quadrant (n.).2

    From 1570s as "the quarter of a circle, the arc of a circle containing 90 degrees." The ancient surveying instrument for measuring altitudes is so called from c. 1400, because it forms a quarter circle. Related: Quadrantal.ETD quadrant (n.).3

    quadraphonic (adj.)

    1969, irregular hybrid formation from Latin-derived quadri- "four" + phonic, from Greek phonē "sound, voice" (from PIE root *bha- (2) "to speak, tell, say"). The goal was to reproduce front-to-back sound distribution in addition to side-to-side stereo. The later term for the same idea, surround sound, is preferable to this. Quadrasonic (1970) was at least not a hybrid. Related: Quadraphonics; quadraphony.ETD quadraphonic (adj.).2

    quadrat (n.)

    "a blank, low-cast type used by typographers to fill in larger spaces at the end of or between printed lines," 1680s, from French quadrat "a quadrat," literally "a square," from Latin quadratrus, past participle of quadrare "to make square," related to quadrus "a square," quattuor "four" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four"). Earlier in English it meant a type of surveying instrument with a square plate (c. 1400).ETD quadrat (n.).2

    quadratic (adj.)

    1650s, "square," with -ic + obsolete quadrate "a square; a group of four things" (late 14c.), from Latin quadratum, noun use of neuter adjective quadratus "square, squared," past participle of quadrare "to square, make square; put in order," related to quadrus "a square," quattuor "four" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four"). In mathematics by 1660s; the algebraic quadratic equations (1680s) are so called because they involve the square and no higher power of x.ETD quadratic (adj.).2

    quadratus (n.)

    "a square-shaped muscle," 1727, from Latin quadratus "square, squared," past participle of quadrare "to square, make square; put in order," related to quadrus "a square," quattuor "four" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four"). Especially the Quadratus femoris, the muscle situated at the back of the hip-joint.ETD quadratus (n.).2

    quadrennial (adj.)

    1650s, "lasting four years, comprising four years;" as "happening once in four years," 1701; from quadri- + ending from biennial, etc. Correct formation would be quadriennial (compare Latin quadriennium "period of four years," which also is sometimes used in English). As a noun from 1640s. Quadrennium as "a period of four years" is by 1735. Related: Quadrennially.ETD quadrennial (adj.).2


    before vowels quad- (before -p- often quadru-, from an older form in Latin), word-forming element used in compounds of Latin origin and meaning "four, four times, having four, consisting of four," from Latin quadri-, which is related to quattor "four" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four").ETD quadri-.2


    "pertaining to or consisting of a period of 400 years," as a noun, "commemoration or celebration of an event which occurred 400 years ago," also quadri-centennial, 1859, from quadri- + centennial. Alternative quater-centennial (1868, meaning "four times a year") is from Latin quater "four times" (compare quaternary).ETD quadricentennial.2

    quadriceps (n.)

    1840, see quadricep.ETD quadriceps (n.).2

    quadricep (n.)

    large extensor muscle of the thigh, 1840, Modern Latin, from quadri- on model of bicep (q.v.). Related: Quadriceps. So called because divided into four parts.ETD quadricep (n.).2

    quadricipital (adj.)

    "having four heads or points of origin," by 1853, in reference to muscles, from Modern Latin; see quadri- "four" + Latin caput (genitive capitis) "head" (from PIE root *kaput- "head").ETD quadricipital (adj.).2

    quadricorn (adj.)

    "having four horns," 1875; also, as a noun, "a four-horned animal or insect" (1848); see quadri- "four" + Latin cornus "horn" (from PIE root *ker- (1) "horn; head"). Alternative quadrucorn is older (c. 1600).ETD quadricorn (adj.).2

    quadrifid (adj.)

    "having four lobes; deeply cut, but not entirely divided, into four parts," 1660s, from quadri- "four" + -fid.ETD quadrifid (adj.).2

    quadrifoliate (adj.)

    in botany, "four-leafed," by 1845; see quadri- "four" + foliate (adj.).ETD quadrifoliate (adj.).2

    quadrille (n.)

    1773, "lively square dance for four couples," consisting regularly of five complete parts, from French quadrille (17c.), originally one of four groups of horsemen in a tournament (a sense attested in English from 1738), from Spanish cuadrilla, diminutive of cuadro "four-sided battle square," from Latin quadrum "a square," related to quattuor "four" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four"). The craze for the dance hit England in 1816, and it underwent a vigorous revival late 19c. among the middle classes.ETD quadrille (n.).2

    Earlier it was the name of a popular card game for four hands, and in this sense it is from French quadrille (1725), from Spanish cuartillo, from cuarto "fourth," from Latin quartus. OED notes it as fashionable ("and was in turn superseded by whist") from 1726, the year of Swift's (or Congreve's) satirical ballad on the craze:ETD quadrille (n.).3

    quadrilateral (n.)

    "figure formed of four straight lines," 1640s, with -al (1) + Latin quadrilaterus, from quadri- "four" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four") + latus (genitive lateris) "the side, flank of humans or animals, lateral surface," a word of uncertain origin. As an adjective, "four-sided, composed of four lines," from 1650s. Related: Quadrilaterally.ETD quadrilateral (n.).2

    quadriliteral (adj.)

    "consisting of four letters;" also, of Semitic roots, "consisting of four consonants," 1771, from quadri- "four" + literal.ETD quadriliteral (adj.).2

    quadrillion (n.)

    1670s, from French quadrillion (16c.) from quadri- "four" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four") + (m)illion. Compare billion. In Great Britain, the fourth power of a million (1 followed by 24 zeroes); in the U.S., the fifth power of a thousand (1 followed by 15 zeroes).ETD quadrillion (n.).2

    quadripartite (adj.)

    early 15c., "divided into four parts," also "written in four identical versions" (of contracts, indentures, etc.), from Latin quadripartitus "divided into four parts, fourfold," from quadri- "four" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four") + partitus, past participle of partiri "to divide" (from pars "a part, piece, a share," from PIE root *pere- (2) "to grant, allot"). Related: Quadripartition.ETD quadripartite (adj.).2

    quadriplegic (adj.)

    also quadraplegic, "person paralyzed in both arms and legs," 1897, from quadriplegia + -ic. A correct, all-Greek formation would be *tessaraplegic. The noun is first attested 1912, from the adjective.ETD quadriplegic (adj.).2

    quadriplegia (n.)

    "paralysis of both arms and legs," 1895, a medical hybrid coined from Latin-based quadri- "four" + -plegia, as in paraplegia, which is ultimately from Greek plege "stroke," from root of plēssein "to strike" (from PIE root *plak- (2) "to strike"). A correct, all-Greek formation would be *tetraplegia.ETD quadriplegia (n.).2

    quadrivious (adj.)

    "going in four directions," 1820, from Latin quadrivius "of the crossroads," literally "going four ways," from quadrivium "crossroads" (see quadrivium).ETD quadrivious (adj.).2

    quadrivium (n.)

    "arithmetic, music, geometry, astronomy" (the four branches of mathematics, according to the Pythagoreans), by 1751, from Latin quadrivium, which meant "place where four roads meet, crossroads," from quadri- "four" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four") + via "way, road, channel, course" (see via). Compare liberal arts, and also see trivium.ETD quadrivium (n.).2

    The adjective quadrivial is attested from mid-15c. in English with the sense of "belonging to the quadrivium," late 15c. with the sense of "having four roads, having four ways meeting in a point."ETD quadrivium (n.).3

    quadroon (n.)

    by 1781, an alteration (by influence of words in quadr-) of quarteroon (1707), "offspring of a white and a mulatto," from Spanish cuarteron (used chiefly of the offspring of a European and a mestizo), literally "one who has a fourth" (Negro blood), from cuarto "fourth," from Latin quartus "the fourth, fourth part," which is related to quattuor "four" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four").ETD quadroon (n.).2

    So called because he or she has one quarter African blood. There also was some use in 19c. of quintroon (from Spanish quinteron) "one who is fifth in descent from a Negro; one who has one-sixteenth Negro blood." OED lists quarter-caste as an Australian and New Zealand term for a person whose ancestry is one-quarter Aboriginal or Maori and 3/4 white (1948).ETD quadroon (n.).3


    word-forming element meaning "four, having four, consisting of four," a variant of quadri- which was used in Latin especially before -p-, from an older form of the element which perhaps was influenced later by tri-.ETD quadru-.2

    quadruped (n.)

    "a four-footed animal," especially "a four-footed mammal," 1640s, from French quadrupède (16c.), from Latin quadrupes (genitive quadrupedis) "four-footed, on all fours," also, as a noun, "a four-footed animal," from quadri- "four" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four") + pes "foot" (from PIE root *ped- "foot").ETD quadruped (n.).2

    The adjective is attested from 1741, "four-footed, having four limbs fitted for sustaining the body and locomotion, habitually going on all fours." Related: Quadrupedal (1610s). In zoology, quadrumane (from Latin manus "hand") was "a four-handed animal," in reference to monkeys, apes, lemurs, etc.; attested by 1786.ETD quadruped (n.).3

    quadruplicate (v.)

    "to make fourfold, double twice," 1660s, from Latin quadruplicatus, past participle of quadruplicare "make fourfold," from quadri- "four" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four") + plicare "to fold" (see ply (v.1)). The sense of "make or provide in four identical versions" is by 1879. Related: Quadruplicated; quadruplicating.ETD quadruplicate (v.).2

    quadruple (adj.)

    "consisting of four parts, fourfold, four times told," 1550s, from French quadruple (13c.), from Latin quadruplus "fourfold," from quadri- "four" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four") + -plus "-fold" (see -plus). Earlier in English as a noun, "a fourfold amount," early 15c., from Latin quadruplum.ETD quadruple (adj.).2

    quadruple (v.)

    late 14c., "to make four times as much or as many," from French quadrupler, from Late Latin quadruplare "make fourfold, multiply by four," from Latin quadruplus (adj.) "quadruple, fourfold," from quadri- "four" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four") + -plus "-fold" (see -plus). Intransitive sense of "become four times as much" is by 1776.ETD quadruple (v.).2

    quadruplicate (adj.)

    "fourfold, four times repeated," 1650s, from Latin quadruplicatus, past participle of quadruplicare "make fourfold," from quadri- "four" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four") + plicare "to fold" (from PIE root *plek- "to plait").ETD quadruplicate (adj.).2

    quadruplication (n.)

    "the act of making fourfold," 1570s, from Latin quadruplicationem (nominative quadruplicatio) "a making fourfold," noun of action from past-participle stem of quadruplicare "make fourfold" (see quadruplicate (v.)).ETD quadruplication (n.).2

    quadruplet (n.)

    "one of four children at a single birth," 1787; from quadruple (adj.) with ending from triplet. Related: Quadruplets. Meaning "any combination of four objects or parts grouped, united, or acting together" is by 1852. Musical sense of "group of four notes to be played in the time of three notes" is by 1873.ETD quadruplet (n.).2

    quadruplex (adj.)

    1875, in reference to telegraph systems in which four messages can be wired simultaneously, from quadru- + -plex. In classical Latin, quadruplex meant "fourfold, quadruple," as a noun, "a fourfold amount." Related: Quadruplicity "fourfold nature," 1580s, from Latin quadruplicitas, noun of quality from quadruplex.ETD quadruplex (adj.).2


    Latin imperative of quaerere "to ask, inquire" (see query (v.)). Used in English in the sense of "one may ask" (1530s) as an introduction to a question. Also used as a synonym of query (1580s).ETD quaere.2

    quaff (v.)

    "to drink or swallow in large draughts," 1510s (implied in quaffer), a word of obscure origin, perhaps imitative, or perhaps from Low German quassen "to overindulge (in food and drink)," with -ss- misread as -ff-. Related: Quaffed; quaffer; quaffing. The noun, "act of quaffing; the amount of liquor drunk at once," is attested by 1570s, from the verb.ETD quaff (v.).2

    quag (n.)

    "marshy spot," 1580s, a variant of Middle English quabbe "a marsh, bog, shaking marshy soil," from Old English *cwabba "shake, tremble" (like something soft and flabby). Related: Quaggy.ETD quag (n.).2

    quagga (n.)

    zebra-like South African animal, partly striped, 1785, from Afrikaans (1710), from the name for the beast in a native language, perhaps Khoisan (Hottentot) quacha, which often is said somehow to be of imitative origin. According to OED, in modern Xhosa, the form is iqwara, with a clicking -q-. What was likely the last one died in an Amsterdam zoo in 1883.ETD quagga (n.).2

    quagmire (n.)

    1570s, "soft, wet, boggy land; a marsh," from obsolete quag "bog, marsh" + mire (n.). Early spellings or related forms include quamyre (1550s), quabmire (1590s), quadmire (c. 1600), quavemire (1520s), qualmire.ETD quagmire (n.).2

    The extended sense of "difficult situation, inescapable bad position" is recorded by 1766; but this seems to have been not in common use in much of 19c. (absent in "Century Dictionary," 1897, which does, however, have a verb, marked "rare," meaning "to entangle or sink in or as in a quagmire"). It revived in a narrower sense in American English in reference to stalled military actions, 1965, with reference to the U.S. war in Vietnam (popularized in the book title "The Making of a Quagmire" by David Halberstam).ETD quagmire (n.).3

    quahog (n.)

    "large, edible, round clam of the Atlantic Coast of the U.S.," much used for soups and chowders, by 1753 in roughly the modern spelling (quogue; Roger Williams had it as poquauhock, 1643), from an Algonquian language, perhaps Narragansett poquauhock or Pequot p'quaghhaug "hard clam."ETD quahog (n.).2

    quai (n.)

    1870, "public path beside a waterway," usually having buildings along the land side, from French quai (12c., see quay). In a French context it is often short for Quai d'Orsay, the street on the south bank of the Seine in Paris, since mid-19c. site of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and hence sometimes used metonymically for it (by 1922).ETD quai (n.).2

    quay (n.)

    "landing place, place where vessels are loaded and unloaded, a wharf," 1690s, a spelling variant of Middle English key, keye, caye "wharf" (c. 1300; mid-13c. in place names), from Old North French cai (Old French chai, 12c., Modern French quai) "sand bank," from Gaulish caium (5c.), from Old Celtic *kagio- "to encompass, enclose" (source also of Welsh cae "fence, hedge," Cornish ke "hedge"), from PIE root *kagh- "to catch, seize; wickerwork, fence" (see hedge (n.)). Spelling altered in English by influence of French quai.ETD quay (n.).2

    quail (n.)

    small migratory game bird of the Old World, late 14c. (early 14c. as a surname, Quayle), from Old French quaille (Modern French caille), perhaps via Medieval Latin quaccula (source also of Provençal calha, Italian quaglia, Portuguese calha, Old Spanish coalla), or directly from a Germanic source (compare Dutch kwakkel, Old High German quahtala "quail," German Wachtel, Old English wihtel), imitative of the bird's cry. Or the English word might have come up indigenously from Proto-Germanic.ETD quail (n.).2

    Slang meaning "young attractive woman" is attested by 1859. Applied to similar birds in the New World.ETD quail (n.).3

    quail (v.)

    c. 1400, "have a morbid craving;" early 15c., "grow feeble or sick, begin to die;" mid-15c., "to fade, fail, give way," probably from Middle Dutch quelen "to suffer, be ill," from Proto-Germanic *kwaljan (source also of Old Saxon quelan "to die," Old High German quelan "die," German quälen "suffer pain"), from PIE root *gwele- "to throw, reach," with extended sense "to pierce."ETD quail (v.).2

    Or perhaps from obsolete quail "to curdle" (late 14c.), from Old French coailler, from Latin coagulare (see coagulate).ETD quail (v.).3

    Sense of "lose heart or courage, shrink before a danger or difficulty, cower" is attested from 1550s. According to OED, the word was common 1520-1650, then rare until 19c., when apparently it was revived by Scott. Related: Quailed; quailing.ETD quail (v.).4

    quaint (adj.)

    c. 1200, cointe, cwointe, "cunning, artful, ingenious; proud," in both good and bad senses, from Old French cointe, queinte "knowledgeable, well-informed; clever; arrogant, proud; elegant, gracious," from Latin cognitus "known, approved," past participle of cognoscere "get or come to know well" (see cognizance). Modern spelling is from early 14c. (see Q).ETD quaint (adj.).2

    The old senses all are archaic or obsolete. Perhaps the fuzziness of the good and bad senses in the word contributed to this. Compare Middle English queintise (n.) "wisdom, knowledge," also "guile, cunning, deceit" (c. 1300).ETD quaint (adj.).3

    Later in English, quaint came to mean "elaborate, skillfully made" (c. 1300); "strange and clever, fanciful, odd whimsical" (mid-14c.). The sense of "unusual or old-fashioned but charming or agreeable" is attested by 1782, and at that time could describe the word itself, which had become rare after c. 1700 (though it soon recovered popularity in this secondary sense). Related: Quaintly; quaintness.ETD quaint (adj.).4

    quake (n.)

    early 14c., "a trembling in fear," from quake (v.). Rare except in combinations, and now usually as a shortening of earthquake, in which use it is attested from 1640s. Old English had the verbal noun cwacung "shaking, trembling." Also compare Middle English quavinge of erþe "an earthquake" (14c.), earthquave (n.), early 15c.ETD quake (n.).2

    quake (v.)

    Middle English quaken, from Old English cwacian "quake (of the earth), tremble, shudder (of persons, from cold, emotion, fear, fever, etc.), chatter (of teeth)," related to cweccan "to shake, swing, move, vibrate," words of unknown origin with no certain cognates outside English. Perhaps somehow imitative (compare quag, quaver, quiver (v.), Middle English quaven "tremble, shake, palpitate," c. 1200). Related: Quaked; quaking. In Middle English formerly also with strong past-participle form quoke. The North American quaking aspen is so called by 1822.ETD quake (v.).2

    Quaker (n.)

    "a member of the Christian denomination known as the Religious Society of Friends," 1651, said to have been applied to them in 1650 by Justice Bennett at Derby, from George Fox's admonition to his followers to "tremble at the Word of the Lord;" but the word was used earlier of foreign sects given to fits of shaking during religious fervor, and that is likely the source here. Either way, it never was an official name of the Religious Society of Friends.ETD Quaker (n.).2

    The word in a literal sense of "one who or that which trembles" is attested from early 15c., an agent noun from quake (v.). The notion of "trembling" in religious awe is in Old English; quaking (n.) meaning "fear and reverence" especially in religion is attested from mid-14c.ETD Quaker (n.).3

    Figuratively, as an adjective, in reference to plain or drab colors (such as were worn by members of the sect) is by 1775. A Quaker gun (1809, American English), originally a log painted black and propped up to resemble the barrel of a cannon to deceive the enemy from a distance, is so called for the sect's noted pacifism. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has been known as the Quaker City at least since 1824. Related: Quakerish; Quakeress ("a female Quaker"); Quakerism; Quakerdom; Quakerly.ETD Quaker (n.).4

    quale (n.)

    an obsolete word for "death; a plague; a murrain," Middle English, from Old English cwalu "slaughter, destruction," cognate with Old Norse kval "torment, torture," from a variant of the root of quell.ETD quale (n.).2

    qualification (n.)

    1540s, "restriction, limitation, modification," from French qualification and directly from Medieval Latin qualificationem (nominative qualificatio), noun of action from past-participle stem of qualificare (see qualify). Meaning "an accomplishment, etc. that adapts someone to a particular circumstance or employment" is from 1660s; that of "necessary precondition" is from 1723. Related: Qualifications.ETD qualification (n.).2

    qualifier (n.)

    "one who or that which qualifies" in any sense, 1560s, agent noun from qualify. Grammatical sense of "a word that qualifies another, modifying or reducing the meaning of a noun, verb, etc." is from 1580s. The Church court office of qualificator is attested from 1680s.ETD qualifier (n.).2

    qualify (v.)

    mid-15c., qualifien, transitive, "to invest with (a quality), impart a certain quality to," from French qualifier (15c.) and directly from Medieval Latin qualificare "attribute a quality to; make of a certain quality," from Latin qualis "of what sort?," correlative pronominal adjective (see quality) + combining form of facere "to make" (from PIE root *dhe- "to set, put").ETD qualify (v.).2

    Meaning "to limit, modify by a limitation or reservation, restrict" is from 1530s, as is the sense of "to have or have taken the necessary steps for rendering oneself capable of holding an office, etc." The sense of "to be or become fit for an employment, office, etc." is by 1580s. Related: Qualified; qualifying.ETD qualify (v.).3

    qualified (adj.)

    1580s, "fitted by accomplishments or endowments;" 1590s, "affected by some degree of restriction or modification;" past-participle adjective from qualify (v.). By 1886 and into mid-20c. as a British English euphemism for bloody or damned.ETD qualified (adj.).2

    qualitative (adj.)

    early 15c., qualitatif, "that produces a (physical) quality," from Medieval Latin qualitativus "relating to quality," from stem of Latin qualitas "a quality, property, nature" (see quality). Meaning "concerned with quality, relating to the possession of qualities without reference to quantities" is from c. 1600 in English, from French qualitatif or Medieval Latin qualitativus. Related: Qualitatively.ETD qualitative (adj.).2

    quality (n.)

    c. 1300, qualite, "temperament, character, disposition," from Old French calite, qualite "quality, nature, characteristic" (12c., Modern French qualité), from Latin qualitatem (nominative qualitas) "a quality, property; nature, state, condition" (said [Tucker, etc.] to have been coined by Cicero to translate Greek poiotēs), from qualis "what kind of a" (from PIE root *kwo-, stem of relative and interrogative pronouns).ETD quality (n.).2

    In early use, and for long thereafter, with awareness of the word's use in Aristotelian philosophy. From late 14c. as "an inherent attribute," also "degree of goodness or excellence." Meaning "social rank, position" is c. 1400, hence "nobility, gentry." From 1580s as "a distinguished and characteristic excellence."ETD quality (n.).3

    Noun phrase quality time "time spent giving undivided attention to another person to build a relationship" is recorded by 1977. Quality of life "degree to which a person is healthy and able to participate in or enjoy life events" is from 1943. Quality control "maintenance of desired quality in a manufactured product" is attested from 1935.ETD quality (n.).4

    qualm (n.)

    Middle English, from Old English cwealm, cwelm (West Saxon) "death, murder, slaughter; disaster; widespread death by plague, pestilence or illness affecting humans or livestock; torment," utcualm (Anglian) "utter destruction," probably related to cwellan "to kill, murder, execute," cwelan "to die" (see quell).ETD qualm (n.).2

    The sense softened to "feeling of faintness" (1520s); the figurative meaning "uneasiness, doubt" is from 1550s; that of "a scruple of conscience" is from 1640s. Evidence of a direct path from the Old English and Middle English senses (now obsolete) to the modern senses is wanting (OED 2nd edition has them as separate entries), and the old word seems to have become rare after c. 1400. But it is plausible, via the notion of "fit of sickness," and could have been influenced by queasy.ETD qualm (n.).3

    The other suggested etymology, less satisfying, is that the "fit of uneasiness" sense is from Dutch kwalm "steam, vapor, mist" (cognate with German Qualm "smoke, vapor, stupor"), which also might be ultimately from the same Germanic root as quell.ETD qualm (n.).4

    qualms (n.)

    see qualm.ETD qualms (n.).2

    quandary (n.)

    "state of great difficulty or perplexity," 1570s, a word of unknown origin and even the pronunciation is unsettled in old dictionaries (it seems to have been originally accented on the second syllable). Perhaps it is a quasi-Latinism based on Latin quando "when? at what time?; at the time that, inasmuch," pronominal adverb of time, related to qui "who" (from PIE root *kwo-, stem of relative and interrogative pronouns).ETD quandary (n.).2

    quango (n.)

    1973, acronym for quasi-non-governmental organization (a descriptive phrase attested from 1967). Related: Quangocracy; quangocrat.ETD quango (n.).2

    quantification (n.)

    "act of attaching quantity to; act of determining the quantity," 1847, noun of action from quantify. Related: Quantificational.ETD quantification (n.).2

    quantify (v.)

    c. 1840, in logic, "make explicit the use of a term in a proposition by attaching all, some, etc.," from Modern Latin quantificare, from Latin quantus "as much," correlative pronominal adjective (see quantity) + combining form of facere "to make" (from PIE root *dhe- "to set, put"). Literal sense of "determine or mark the quantity of, measure" is by 1878. Related: Quantified; quantifying.ETD quantify (v.).2

    quantifiable (adj.)

    "that may be measured with regard to quantity," 1868, from quantify + -able. Related: Quantifiably.ETD quantifiable (adj.).2

    quantitive (adj.)

    a rare variant of quantitative, 1650s, from quantity + -ive. Related: Quantitively.ETD quantitive (adj.).2

    quantitation (n.)

    "action of ascertaining the quantity of," 1952, from quantity + -ation, ending used in forming nouns of action. Related: Quantitate (v.), 1960.ETD quantitation (n.).2

    quantitative (adj.)

    1580s, "having quantity," from Medieval Latin quantitativus, from stem of Latin quantitas (see quantity). Meaning "measurable" is from 1650s. Related: Quantitatively; quantitativeness.ETD quantitative (adj.).2

    quantity (n.)

    early 14c., quantite, "amount, magnitude, the being so much in measure or extent," from Old French quantite, cantite (12c., Modern French quantité) and directly from Latin quantitatem (nominative quantitas) "relative greatness or extent," coined as a loan-translation of Greek posotes (from posos "how great? how much?") from Latin quantus "of what size? how much? how great? what amount?," correlative pronominal adjective (from PIE root *kwo-, stem of relative and interrogative pronouns).ETD quantity (n.).2

    From late 14c. as "that which has quantity, a concrete quantity;" from 1610s in the concrete sense of "an object regarded as more or less." In prosody and metrics, "the relative time occupied in uttering a vowel or syllable" (distinguishing it as long or short) by 1560s. Latin quantitatem also is the source of Italian quantita, Spanish cantidad, Danish and Swedish kvantitet, German quantitat.ETD quantity (n.).3

    quantum (n.)

    1610s, "sum, amount," from Latin quantum (plural quanta) "as much as, so much as; how much? how far? how great an extent?" neuter singular of correlative pronominal adjective quantus "as much" (see quantity).ETD quantum (n.).2

    The word was introduced in physics directly from Latin by Max Planck, 1900, on the notion of "minimum amount of a quantity which can exist;" reinforced by Einstein, 1905. Quantum theory is from 1912; quantum mechanics, 1922. The term quantum jump "abrupt transition from one stationary state to another" is recorded by 1954; quantum leap "sudden large advance" (1963), is often figurative.ETD quantum (n.).3

    quarantine (n.)

    1660s, "period a ship suspected of carrying contagious disease is kept in isolation," from Italian quaranta giorni, literally "space of forty days," from quaranta "forty," from Latin quadraginta "forty" (related to quattuor "four," from PIE root *kwetwer- "four").ETD quarantine (n.).2

    The name is from the Venetian policy (first enforced in 1377) of keeping ships from plague-stricken countries waiting off its port for 40 days to assure that no latent cases were aboard. Also see lazaretto. The extended sense of "any period of forced isolation" is from 1670s.ETD quarantine (n.).3

    Earlier in English the word meant "period of 40 days in which a widow has the right to remain in her dead husband's house" (1520s), and, as quarentyne (15c.), "desert in which Christ fasted for 40 days," from Latin quadraginta "forty."ETD quarantine (n.).4

    quarantine (v.)

    "put under quarantine" in any sense, also figurative, "to isolate, as by authority," 1804, from quarantine (n.). Related: Quarantined; quarantining; quarantinable.ETD quarantine (v.).2

    quark (n.)

    hypothetical subatomic particle having a fractional electric charge, 1964, applied by U.S. physicist Murray Gell-Mann (1929-2019), who said in correspondence with the editors of the OED in 1978 that he took it from a word in James Joyce's "Finnegans Wake" (1939), but also that the sound of the word was in his head before he encountered the printed form in Joyce.ETD quark (n.).2

    German Quark "curds, rubbish" has been proposed as the ultimate inspiration [Barnhart; Gell-Mann's parents were immigrants from Austria-Hungary]; it is from Old Church Slavonic tvarogu "curds, cottage cheese" (from a suffixed form of PIE root *teue- "to swell," source also of Greek tyros "cheese"). George Zweig, Gell-Mann's co-proposer of the theory, is said to have preferred the name ace for them.ETD quark (n.).3

    quarrel (n.2)

    "short, heavy, square-headed, four-edged bolt or arrow for a crossbow," mid-13c., from Old French quarel, carrel "bolt, arrow," from Vulgar Latin *quadrellus, diminutive of Late Latin quadrus (adj.) "square," related to quattuor "four" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four"). Now-archaic sense of "square or diamond-shaped plane of glass" is recorded from mid-15c., from Medieval Latin quadrellus "a square tile."ETD quarrel (n.2).2

    quarrel (n.1)

    [angry dispute] mid-14c., querele, "dispute, altercation," also "ground for complaint," from Old French querele "matter, concern, business; dispute, controversy" (Modern French querelle) and directly from Latin querella "complaint, accusation; lamentation," from queri "to complain, lament," from Proto-Italic *kwese-, of uncertain etymology, perhaps, via the notion of "to sigh," from a PIE root *kues- "to hiss" (source also of Sanskrit svasiti "to hiss, snort"), which is not very compelling, but no better etymology has been offered.ETD quarrel (n.1).2

    In Middle English also of armed combat. Old English had sacan. Sense of "angry contention between persons" is from 1570s.ETD quarrel (n.1).3

    quarrel (v.)

    late 14c., querelen, "to raise an objection, dispute; rebel;" 1520s as "to contend violently, dispute angrily, fall out," from quarrel (n.1) and in part from Old French quereler (Modern French quereller). Related: Quarrelled; quarrelling.ETD quarrel (v.).2

    quarrelsome (adj.)

    "apt to quarrel, given to contention," 1590s, from quarrel (n.1) + -some (1). Related: Quarrelsomely; quarrelsomeness. Older quarrellous (c. 1400) is now obsolete.ETD quarrelsome (adj.).2

    quarry (n.1)

    [what is hunted] early 14c., quirre "entrails of deer placed on the hide and given to dogs of the chase as a reward," from Anglo-French quirreie, Old French cuiriee "the spoil, quarry" (Modern French curée), altered (by influence of Old French cuir "skin," from Latin corium "hide"), from Old French corée "viscera, entrails," from Vulgar Latin *corata "entrails," from Latin cor "heart" (from PIE root *kerd- "heart").ETD quarry (n.1).2

    The original meaning is obsolete. The sense of "beast of the chase when pursued or slain in a hunt" is by 1610s, also "any object of eager pursuit;" earlier "bird targeted by a hawk or other raptor" (late 15c.).ETD quarry (n.1).3

    quarry (v.)

    "to dig or take from a quarry," 1774, from quarry (n.2). Related: Quarried; quarrying.ETD quarry (v.).2

    quarry (n.2)

    "open place where rocks are excavated," late 14c., quarrei (mid-13c. as a place name), from Medieval Latin quareia, a dissimilation of quarreria (mid-13c.), literally "place where stones are squared," from Latin quadrare "to make square," related to quadrus "a square," quattuor "four" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four"). Quarry-faced, of building stones, is "rough-faced, as though taken right from the quarry" (1849).ETD quarry (n.2).2

    quarryman (n.)

    "man occupied in quarrying stones," 1610s, from quarry (n.2) + man (n.). Related: Quarrymen (mid-15c.). Quarriour is attested from 1232 as a surname.ETD quarryman (n.).2

    quart (n.)

    liquid measure of capacity equal to one-fourth of a gallon, early 14c., from Old French quarte "a fourth part" (13c.), from Latin quarta (pars), fem. of quartus "the fourth, fourth part" (related to quattuor "four," from PIE root *kwetwer- "four").ETD quart (n.).2

    Compare Latin quartarius "fourth part," also the name of a small liquid measure (the fourth part of a sextarius), which was about the same as an English pint.ETD quart (n.).3

    quartan (adj.)

    "having to do with the fourth," especially of attacks of an intermittent fever, etc., "occurring every fourth day" (by inclusive reckoning; now we would say every third day), early 14c., (feuer) quartain, from Old French (fievre) quartaine or cartaine and directly from Latin (febris) quartana, "quartan (fever)," fem. of quartanus "of or belonging to the fourth; of or occurring on the fourth day," from quartus "the fourth, fourth part" (related to quattuor "four," from PIE root *kwetwer- "four").ETD quartan (adj.).2

    Also as a noun, "an ague or fever which recurs on the fourth (third) day," late 14c. Under inclusive reckoning, both days of consecutive occurrence are counted (if you have it on Wednesday and again on Saturday, the ancients would count that as "every four days").ETD quartan (adj.).3

    quarter (v.)

    "to cut in quarters, divide into four equal parts," mid-14c., from quarter (n.1). From late 14c. specifically as the word for a form of criminal punishment (Old English had slitcwealm "death by rending"). Related: Quartered; quartering. Middle English also had a verb quartle "to divide into four parts" (late 14c.).ETD quarter (v.).2

    The meaning "furnish with lodgings, shelter, etc. as a temporary means of living" is recorded from 1590s (see quarters), often specifically "to put up soldiers" under orders from authority.ETD quarter (v.).3

    quarter (n.2)

    "indulgence or mercy shown to a vanquished foe; exemption from being immediately killed upon being defeated in battle or armed contest," 1610s, presumably from quarter (n.1) or its French equivalent quartier in this meaning, but OED writes that "the precise origin of this sense is obscure ...." It suggests quarter in a now-obsolete sense of "relations with, or conduct towards, another" (attested from 1640s), or possibly quarter in the sense of "place of stay or residence" (compare quarters), on the notion of sending the vanquished to an assigned place until his fate is decided. German quartier, Swedish quarter, Danish kvarteer, etc. probably are from French.ETD quarter (n.2).2

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