quid pro quo
noun, plural quid pro quos, quids pro quo.
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Words nearby quid pro quo
What does quid pro quo mean?
Tit for tat. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. Or, if you want to get a little fancier, quid pro quo.
This is a Latin-derived expression referring to something done for someone in exchange for something of equal value in return.
Where does quid pro quo come from?
In Latin, quid pro quo literally means “something for something” or “one thing for another.”
The expression was notably used in the Middle Ages by apothecaries who were figuring out what substances may be substituted for another (quid pro quo) in medicines. The phrase was added to a 1535 English translation of Dutch humanist Erasmus, who apparently questioned the questionable quid-pro-quoing of these quacks.
By the late 1500s, quid pro quo spread from medicine into general contexts for a “tit for tat.” A 17th century history on the reign of King Charles, for instance, described Christianity as a quid pro quo in that people must repent for redemption.
Since the late 20th century in labor law, quid pro quo is widely used as a name for a type of workplace sexual harassment in which an employer holds an employee’s job hostage in return for sexual favors.
How is quid pro quo used in real life?
Quid pro quo can be used as a noun (e.g., we have a quid pro quo with our landlord) or as a modifier (e.g., we have a quid pro quo deal with our client). Either way, the phrase is used in everyday speech and writing generally to mean “trade,” “exchange,” or “agreement.”
More examples of quid pro quo:
“Police investigators rolled into the Prime Minister’s Residence Tuesday morning to interrogate Benjamin Netanyahu in the high-profile Bezeq graft probe, having acquired new evidence from a key state’s witness reportedly implicating him in an illicit quid pro quo deal.”
—Raoul Wootliff, The Times of Israel, June, 2018
This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.
British Dictionary definitions for quid pro quo
noun plural quid pro quos
Word Origin for quid pro quo
Cultural definitions for quid pro quo
A fair exchange; the phrase is most frequently used in diplomacy: “The Chinese may make some concessions on trade, but they will no doubt demand a quid pro quo, so we must be prepared to make concessions too.” From Latin, meaning “something for something.”
Idioms and Phrases with quid pro quo
An equal exchange or substitution, as in I think it should be quid pro quo—you mow the lawn and I'll take you to the movies. This Latin expression, meaning “something for something,” has been used in English since the late 1500s.