Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An essential element or condition: "The perfect cake is the sine qua non of the carefully planned modern wedding” ( J.M. Hilary).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An essential or indispensable element, condition, or ingredient.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Something absolutely necessary or indispensable; an indispensable condition: as, he made the presence of a witness a sine qua non; used attributively, indispensable; necessary.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a prerequisite

Etymologies

Late Latin sine quā (causā) nōn, without which (cause) not : Latin sine, without + Latin quā : ablative of quī, which, what, who + Latin nōn, not.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Latin sine qua non, “without which [cause] not” (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • Latin legal term for "(a condition) without which it could not be" or "but for..." or "without which (there is) nothing." It refers to an indispensable and essential action, condition, or ingredient.

    October 4, 2008