Quixotic

The word quixotic (/kwɪkˈsɒtɪk/) has come up a number of times in books I’ve been reading recently, and though I sort know what it means, I wasn’t sure, so I thought I’d find out.

According to the QED, quixotic means:

- Of an action, attribute, idea, etc.: characteristic of or appropriate to Don Quixote; demonstrating or motivated by exaggerated notions of chivalry and romanticism; naively idealistic; unrealistic, impracticable; (also) unpredictable, capricious, whimsical.

- Of a person: resembling Don Quixote; visionary; enthusiastically chivalrous or romantic; naively idealistic; impractical, capricious.

It comes from Don Quixote (Don Quijote in Spanish), the hero of Cervantes’ story by the same name, which was published in 1605 and 1615. The word quijote comes from name of a piece of armour, the quixote or cuisse, which protects the thighs.

Is this word used in other languages?

If not, are there any words with a similar meaning?

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This entry was posted in English, Language, Spanish, Words and phrases.

12 Responses to Quixotic

  1. IronMike says:

    In Russian, the source is obvious: донкихотский or donkikhotskiy. In the years I’ve been dealing with Russians and the Russian language, I’ve never heard that adjective used.

  2. Yenlit says:

    In Welsh it would be:

    Quixote – Cwicsot
    quixotic – cwicsotig / cwicsotiaid
    quixotically – yn gwicsotig
    quixotism / quixotry – cwicsotiaeth

    or it would be translated using any of the Welsh terms for “whimsical”: mympwyol , gwamal , ysmala etc.

  3. CuConnacht says:

    I think perhaps you misunderstood your source on the meaning of quixote (quijote in modern spelling). Cuisse is the French and English word for the piece of armor which is called a quijote in Spanish.

  4. Lev says:

    Is that how “quixotic” is pronounced? The one time I heard the word “Quixote” in English, it was pronounced /kixote/, as in Spanish.

  5. MadFall says:

    French google has a lot of hits for “don-quichottesque”.

  6. Simon says:

    Lev – quixotic is pronounced /kwɪkˈsɒtɪk/.

    CuConnacht – you’re right, and I’ve corrected that now.

  7. Geoff Pickles says:

    I have always pronounced ‘quixotic’ with the stress on the second syllable; this is borne out by my Concise Oxford Dictionary. Although the latter was published in 1964, I’m not aware that the pronunciation has changed since then.

  8. Rauli says:

    Geoff, in the IPA, the accent mark is placed before the stressed syllable. The stress is still on the second syllable :-)

  9. Remd says:

    We say quijotesco /kixo’tesko/ in Spanish, It is not a very common word though, I hadn’t imagine it could be used in English that way…

  10. Geoff Pickles says:

    Rauli, thank you very much for adding to my knowledge.

  11. Yenlit says:

    The more I look at the word “cwicsotiaid” the more I realise it isn’t an adjective for “quixotic” (cwisotig) rather it’s the Welsh plural of the proper noun Quixote (Cwicsot / pl. Cwicsotiaid) the usage of which I don’t think I’ve really come across often in Welsh or English hence the confusion on my behave. I’ve only seen it used, the plural “Quixotes” as in the anonymous quote:

    “Los Quijotes de hoy no luchan en contra sino a favor de los molinos de viento”

    “Nid yn erbyn melinau gwynt, ond o’u plaid, yr ymladd Cwicsotiaid heddiw”

    (Today’s Quixotes don’t fight against windmill, but for them.)

  12. pittmirg says:

    In Polish, I think I’ve heard the noun donkiszoteria ‘quixotic endeavor’ more often than the adjective donkiszotowski ‘quixotic’ / ‘related to Don Quijote’.

    You could also encounter the alternative versions donkichoteria, donkichotowski. I believe Quijote was first polonized as ‘Kichot(e)’, which in turn came to be pronounced like ‘Kiszot’ because French was the foreign language back then and people had a tendency to pronounce everything foreign-looking as if it were French.