Definitions

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

  • adjective Caught up in the romance of noble deeds and the pursuit of unreachable goals; idealistic without regard to practicality.
  • adjective Capricious; impulsive.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Pertaining to or resembling Don Quixote, the hero of Cervantes's celebrated romance of that name; hence, extravagantly or absurdly romantic; striving for an unattainable or impracticable ideal; characterized by futile self-devotion; visionary.

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

  • adjective Like Don Quixote; romantic to extravagance; prone to pursue unrealizable goals; absurdly chivalric; apt to be deluded. See also quixotism.
  • adjective Like the deeds of Don Quixote; ridiculously impractical; unachievable; extravagantly romantic; doomed to failure.

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

  • adjective Possessing or acting with the desire to do noble and romantic deeds, without thought of realism and practicality.
  • adjective Impulsive.
  • adjective Like Don Quixote; romantic to extravagance; absurdly chivalric; apt to be deluded.

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

  • adjective not sensible about practical matters; idealistic and unrealistic

Etymologies

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

[From English Quixote, a visionary, after Don Quixote, hero of a romance by Miguel de Cervantes.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

The surname of Don Quixote, the titular character in the novel by Miguel Cervantes, + -ic

Examples

  • Seth has a sense of honor which I call quixotic, and one that might reasonably shame the impecunious fortune-hunters I've met since I have lived in England.

    The Watchers of the Plains A Tale of the Western Prairies

  • The rest of you can just scream impotently behind the wheel; I get to write impotently and show the younger people what the word "quixotic" means.

    SFGate: Top News Stories

  • From Quixote we derived the word quixotic, meaning extravagantly chivalrous and romantically idealistic.

    Impossible Dream

  • "My Best Friend shows [Patrice] Leconte's fondness for personalities wrapped up in quixotic conflicts, but the premise is too incredulous even by his own standards," writes Eric Kohn.

    GreenCine Daily: Wrapping Tribeca.

  • One could argue that America's overwhelming nuclear deterrence, like Britain's navy in the 19th century, has been a source of global stability more than otherwise—and that Reagan's dream of missile defense which Mr. Taubman labels "quixotic" may turn out to be the real solution to preventing a rogue nuclear attack from one of the world's many despotic regimes.

    Fearsome Peacekeepers

  • This absurd belief would not even deserve to be called quixotic if it had not inspired masterpieces of art and music and architecture as well as the most appalling atrocities and depredations.

    Christopher Hitchens: Collision: Is Religion Absurd or Good for the World?

  • Devoted IsThatLegal readers may recall my quixotic efforts to use the Freedom of Information Act to learn about the potential involvement of DOJ's and other branches 'lawyer's roles in approving of interrogation tactics that amount to torture.

    IsThatLegal?

  • So this exercise in tilting at windmills can't even be described as quixotic, since that would imply some expectation of success, however delusional.

    Redskins Insider Podcast -- The Washington Post

  • Supporters put together signs for Jones' campaign in 1994, an effort Jones describes as "quixotic."

    News

  • Supporters put together signs for Jones' campaign in 1994, an effort Jones describes as "quixotic."

    News

Comments

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  • I feel like this word should be pronounced kee-ho-tik (it just occurred to me that standard IPA pronunciation would show up as a possible word entry). We don't say Don Kwik-sot-ay...but maybe I'm just being persnickety.

    January 4, 2007

  • I totally know where you're coming from, Valse. You're being neither persnickety nor pedantic. Unfortunately, English — especially when adapting foreign words and names — is one big miasma of bafflegab.

    I still spell "fish" as ghoti1 and "potato" as ghoughphtheightteeau.

    January 5, 2007

  • So true, billifer. As counterintuitive as it may sometimes seem, we should just chalk it up to idiosyncrasy(if that word wasn't previously used to describe words or language, it now is). And then the inconsistency's something to appreciate, I suppose.

    January 5, 2007

  • I heard someone (who I thought aught to have known better) pronounce it as an English word recently. I'd never heard it that way before. It made my eyes cross.

    January 7, 2007

  • I've never heard anyone pronounce it as anything other than "quicks-ot-ic".

    January 8, 2007

  • I pronounce it "kee-ho-tik". I'm takin' it back!

    January 10, 2007

  • There is a fundamental dichotomy here. The suffix "ic" is not Spanish at all. Therefore, adding "ic" to Quixote to create an adjective is not allowed. I'm not sure what the equivalent suffix would be in Spanish, but if you insist on being a stickler for pronunciation, then you should insist on using the Spanish suffix. To make an English adjective, it makes sense to change the pronunciation.

    January 11, 2007

  • Possible counterexamples of that, seanahan, would be words like jungian (yoong-ee-uhn) or wagnerian (vahg-neer-ee-uhn). When it derives from someone's name, that pronunciation seems to stick, at least part of the time. But after reading the tidbit on wikipedia about the spelling and pronunciation of "Quixote", I see it's a little bit more nuanced anyhow (technically it's medieval Castilian, not Spanish). Bah! This is a good word, I'm going to leave it alone (stop picking at it, that is) for fear that people will stop using it. I see it written much more often than I hear it spoken, anyway.

    January 12, 2007

  • Good point -- I see the word much more often than I hear it. In fact, I think I've only ever heard it spoken out loud in the context of debates over its pronunciation! Is there a synonym for "quixotic" that's more popular in conversation, or do people just not want to talk about tilting at windmills?

    January 17, 2007

  • Matter of opinion, innit? I'd be more inclined to change the spelling.

    I think the whole idea of borrowing foreign rules for modifying words along with foreign words is dumb. It's "octopusses", dammit!

    January 24, 2007