from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun An inherent or distinguishing characteristic; a property.
  • noun A personal trait, especially a character trait.
  • noun Essential character; nature.
  • noun Superiority of kind.
  • noun Degree or grade of excellence.
  • noun Investments that have a low risk of loss or default.
  • noun High social position.
  • noun Those in a high social position.
  • noun Music Timbre, as determined by harmonics.
  • noun Linguistics The character of a vowel sound determined by the size and shape of the oral cavity and the amount of resonance with which the sound is produced.
  • noun Logic The positive or negative character of a proposition.
  • adjective Having a high degree of excellence.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun Specifically, in acoustics, that in a particular sound or tone which distinguishes it from other sounds or tones of the same pitch and loudness; timbre; tone-color: as, the quality of a violin tone. See timbre.
  • noun In the fine arts, especially painting, often used to designate body, richness, and depth of color, or similar attributes of style in modelling or of relief in architectural detail.
  • noun In psychophysics, one of the constituent attributes of the elementary mental process, sensation, or affection; that attribute which individualizes the element and from which it receives its name.
  • To supply with qualities or a quality.
  • To estimate at a certain value.
  • noun That from which anything can be said to be such or such; a character expressible by an adjective admitting degrees of comparison, but not explicitly relative nor quantitative: thus, blueness, hardness, agility, and mirthfulness are qualities.
  • noun One of those characters of a person or thing which make it good or bad; a moral disposition or habit.
  • noun A distinguished and characteristic excellence or superiority: as, this wine has quality.
  • noun Degree of excellence or fineness; grade: as, the food was of inferior quality; the finest quality of cloth.
  • noun A title, or designation of rank, profession, or the like.
  • noun Rank; profession; occupation; function; character sustained.
  • noun Persons of the same calling or fraternity.
  • noun Nobility or gentry, either abstractly (as, persons of quality) or concretely (as, the quality). But the former is obsolescent, the latter obsolete or now vulgar.
  • noun Character in respect to dryness or moisture, heat or cold, these being the elemental qualities from which it was supposed other properties, especially those of drugs and the temperaments, were compounded.
  • noun Cause; occasion: an incorrect use.
  • noun In logic: The character of a proposition as affirmative or negative.
  • noun The character of apprehension as clear and distinct or obscure and confused.
  • noun A quality really existing in a body, and not imputed.
  • noun A derivative quality.
  • noun A patible quality.
  • noun Synonyms and Quality, Property, Attribute, Accident, Characteristic, Character, Affection, Predicate, Mark, Difference, Diathesis, Determination. Quality is that which makes or helps to make a person or thing such as he or it is. It is not universal, and in one popular sense it implies an excellence or a defect. In popular speech a quality is intellectual or moral; in metaphysics it may be also physical. A property is that which is viewed as peculiarly one's own, a peculiar quality. An attribute is a high and lofty character: the attributes of Cod are natural, as omniscience, omnipotence, etc., and moral, as holiness, justice, mercy, etc. “Accident is an abbreviated expression for accidental or contingent quality.” (Sir W. Hamilton, Metaph., vi.) Characteristic is not a term of logic or philosophy; it stands for a personal, peculiar, or distinguishing quality: as, yellow in skin, horn, milk, etc., is a characteristic of Guernsey cattle. Characteristics may be mental, moral, or physical. Character is the most general of these words; a character is anything which is true of a subject. In another sense character (as a collective term) is the sum of the characteristics of a person or thing, especially the moral characteristics. The word always views them as making a unit or whole, and has lower and higher uses. The other words are somewhat technical. Affection is used in various senses. Predicate and mark are very general words in logic. Difference is a character distinguishing one class of objects from others. Diathesis, the corresponding Greek form, is applied in medicine to peculiarities of constitution. Determination is a more recent philosophical term denoting a character in general.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun The condition of being of such and such a sort as distinguished from others; nature or character relatively considered, as of goods; character; sort; rank.
  • noun Special or temporary character; profession; occupation; assumed or asserted rank, part, or position.
  • noun That which makes, or helps to make, anything such as it is; anything belonging to a subject, or predicable of it; distinguishing property, characteristic, or attribute; peculiar power, capacity, or virtue; distinctive trait
  • noun An acquired trait; accomplishment; acquisition.
  • noun Superior birth or station; high rank; elevated character.
  • noun a kind of worsted tape used in Scotland for binding carpets, and the like.
  • noun those of high rank or station, as distinguished from the masses, or common people; the nobility; the gentry.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun uncountable Level of excellence
  • noun countable The third step in OPQRST where the responder investigates what the NOI/MOI feels like.
  • noun countable A property or an attribute that differentiates a thing or person.
  • noun thermodynamics In a two-phase liquid-vapor mixture, the ratio of the mass of vapor present to the total mass of the mixture.
  • noun archaic High social position. (See also the quality.)
  • noun uncountable The degree to which a man-made object or system is free from bugs and flaws, as opposed to scope of functions or quantity of items.
  • adjective Being of good worth, well made, fit for purpose.


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

[Middle English qualite, from Old French, from Latin quālitās, quālitāt-, from quālis, of what kind; see kwo- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English, from Old French qualité, from Latin qualitatem, accusative of qualitas, from qualis ("of what kind"), from Proto-Indo-European *kʷo- (“who, how”). Cicero coined qualitas as a calque to translate the Ancient Greek word ποιότης (poiótes, "quality"), coined by Plato from ποῖος (poios, "of what nature, of what kind").


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  • In Scotland (and perhaps all of the UK) this word has a use where the meaning is intended to be something like excellent. And this use can sometimes be ironical.

    March 9, 2009

  • Pure, dead, brilliant!

    March 9, 2009