Word of The Day for Sunday, October 3, 2010


quid•di•ty    / kwi-də-tē /   n

1. The essence or inherent nature of a person or thing
2. A trifle; a nicety or quibble
3. An eccentricity; an odd feature

quidditative adjective


Synonyms: essence, quintessence, whatness
Related Words: quiddle

• But supposing, on the contrary, that immaterial substances differ altogether from the quiddity of material things, it follows that, however much our intellect abstracted the quiddity of material things from matter, it could never arrive at anything akin to immaterial substance. St. Thomas Aquinas
• Their doctrine ends in absolute negation, and indeed the denial of the quiddity  is the denial of the real essence, and through the denial of this reality nothing remains but the word "existence," which has no object at all when it is not related to quiddity. 2005

The Storyline

...that her very quiddity could be challenged by something so trivial as one too many glass apples.


1530s, "captious nicety in argument" from M.E. quidite, from M.L. quidditas, lit. "whatness," from L. quid "what," neut. of quis who

Sources: Wiktionary, Online Etymology

Why This Word:

What it is! I like this discussion in Wikipedia:

 In scholastic philosophy, quiddity was another term for the essence of an object, literally its "whatness," or "what it is." The term derives from the Latin word "quidditas," which was used by the medieval Scholastics as a literal translation of the equivalent term in Aristotle's Greek.

It describes properties that a particular substance (e.g. a person) shares with others of its kind. The question "what (quid) is it?" asks for a general description by way of commonality. This is quiddity or "whatness" (i.e., its "what it is"). Quiddity was often contrasted by the scholastic philosophers with the haecceity or "thisness" of an item, which was supposed to be a positive characteristic of an individual that caused them to be this individual, and no other.
In law, the term is used to refer to a quibble or academic point.

I see no reason however why pondering the what-ness of a thing should be the sole province of of the academic philosopher. It seems, however, that the other senses of the word reflect another opinion. Where philosophers see a core debate, others hear a decidedly non-essential quibbling over minutiae. But surely, you, the lover of words, can appreciate the subtleties of distinction between two similar but different concepts and the difficulties in defining exactly what something is. What is the enterprise of this site anyway except the search for the quiddity of the things and ideas that construct our experience. What it is, indeed.

Word-E: A Word-A-Day

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