Printable Version
Pronunciation: kwest Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A long arduous search for something. 2. (Medieval romance) An expedition undertaken by a knight to accomplish a task. 3. To track, said of dogs on a hunt. 4. (Obsolete) A judicial inquest.

Notes: The most famous quest among English-speaking people is the quest for the Holy Grail, though the quest for the Ark of the Covenant is a challenger in the US as a result of the popularity of the Steven Spielberg 1981 movie "Raiders of the Lost Ark". This noun may be used as a verb, making possible quester "a hunting dog or a person seeking something ".

In Play: The romantic sense of today's word is linked to the legend of King Arthur and his Roundtable of knights: "Sir Lancelot was praised for his quest of the Holy Grail, but less so for his quest of Queen Guinevere, King Arthur's wife." However, less romantic quests are also possible: "The quest for a coronavirus vaccine is afoot at a maddening pace."

Word History: This Good Word was borrowed from Old French queste "search, chase, hunt; inquest, inquiry" (Modern French quête). The sense is more properly "the act of seeking", inherited directly from Medieval Latin questa "search, inquiry", a reduction of Latin quaesita, feminine of quaesitus "sought-out, select", past participle of quaerere "seek, gain, ask", from Latin quaere "ask", imperative of quaerere "to seek, look for; ask", source also of query. Since a question is a quest for an answer, it should not surprise us that question shares the same source. All these words derive from the PIE root kwo-/kwe-, stem of all relative and interrogative pronouns. Latin qui means "who, what, which" and quo means "where, whither", as in Quo vadis? "Whither goest thou?" Kwo-/kwe- also produced English who, where, when, German wer "who", was "what", and wo "where", and Russian kto "who", kuda "where to" and kogda "when".

Dr. Goodword,

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