Definitions

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

  • adj. Caught up in the romance of noble deeds and the pursuit of unreachable goals; idealistic without regard to practicality.
  • adj. Capricious; impulsive: "At worst his scruples must have been quixotic, not malicious” ( Louis Auchincloss).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

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

  • adj. not sensible about practical matters; idealistic and unrealistic

Etymologies

From English Quixote, a visionary, after Don Quixote, hero of a romance by Miguel de Cervantes.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
The surname of Don Quixote, the titular character in the novel by Miguel Cervantes, + -ic (Wiktionary)

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

  • To compel gadget maniacs to have a dip in the already blooming gadgetry arena; gadgetry makers with their never-ending endeavours are turning what is called quixotic or practically impossible creations into the real ones!

    British Blogs

Comments

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  • What a negative word...wow..sounds good!..Except it's one of those words the vocabularyistic LOL use to insult positive minded people striving for the utmost..GOOD to strive high diligently!..So the 'low' isn't as low if there is a mistake!!! Doesn't Always work..but Usually!!!..It Does Work Out Well!- To work out hard and happy in life..or just get the job done and make it happy!..Keeping Health in Mind Of Course!


    http://touch.facebook.com/#/story.php?id=100000209953179&v=wall&story_fbid=207474925932417

    March 21, 2011

  • Chasing one's tail seems like a quixotic activity.

    May 17, 2009

  • I named my dog Quixote, and he IS quixotic.

    May 16, 2009

  • I just recently saw this word the other day for the first time and I beamed with excitement when I realized it was related to Don Quixote.

    May 9, 2009

  • I'm kind of surprised that this is the #2 most listed word here. What's so special about this word? It makes me think of an exotic quiz.

    November 13, 2008

  • See quixotically.

    November 4, 2008

  • Odd... I say that a lot too.
    ;)

    November 4, 2008

  • "I just want to get drunk as fast as I can" said Don, quixotically.

    November 4, 2008

  • -extravagantly chivalrous or romantic; visionary, impractical, or impracticable.

    -impulsive and often rashly unpredictable.

    October 23, 2008

  • I can never remember what this damn word means

    August 21, 2007

  • This word reminds me of one of those guys who hangs out at the bar everynight with his polyester shiny shirt and his gel'd up hair. It's used up, been had, and not as cool as it sounds.

    August 15, 2007

  • It is "octopuses," definitely, not "octopi." The word octopus comes from Greek, not Latin, so the plural suffix -i is inappropriate.

    As for the pronunciation of "quixotic," Charles Harrington Elster, author of The Big Book of Beastly Mispronunciations, sanctions only kwik-SAHT-ik. I will continue to say kwik-SAHT-ik in English and reserve the more Spanishy pronunciation for when I am speaking Spanish.

    March 26, 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

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

    January 10, 2007

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

    January 8, 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

  • 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 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

  • 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