The Meaning of Quite: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of quite? This guide will provide you with all of the info you need on the word quite, including its definition, etymology, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word quite mean?

According to Cambridge English Language Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary, and many other dictionary apps, the word quite, pronounced “kwaɪt,” is an adverb that can mean rather or completely. Quite is an intensifier that can either mean wholly or completely, or rather or fairly depending on the context. For example, someone could say “it’s quite chilly outside” to mean that it is very cold, or they could say something is “quite alright” to mean that something is just fine. 

This word is also often seen in the negated form “not quite,” which tends to mean “not exactly” or “not really.” For example, if someone attempted to solve a math problem on the board in front of their class and got the wrong answer, the teacher might tell them “not quite” This is considered a polite way to express incorrectness or uncertainty about something.

Compared to American English, in British English, the word quite is also used to show that you agree with someone’s opinion. For example, if someone asserted that one of their friends was being too generous by offering to pay for all of his friends’ trips to Greece, and that they know he can’t afford it, someone might reply “quite” to show agreement with the statement.

Quite is also a word in many other languages. A list of translations for the word quite is below, from Word Sense.

  • Polish: całkowicie‎, całkiem‎
  • Japanese: かなり‎ (kanari)
  • Portuguese: totalmente‎, completamente‎, bastante‎
  • Catalan: completament‎, del tot
  • Finnish: paljon‎, kovasti‎, varsin‎, sangen‎
  • Hungarian: nagyon‎
  • Irish: ar fad‎
  • Italian: proprio‎
  • German: ganz‎, völlig‎
  • Korean: 상당히‎
  • Chinese – Mandarin: 挺‎ (tǐng)
  • Spanish: considerablemente‎
  • Russian: вполне́‎, весьма́‎, (informal) изря́дно‎
  • Norwegian: temmelig‎
  • Hindi: काफ़ी‎ (kāfī)
  • Czech: dost‎
  • French: tout à fait‎, complètement‎
  • Latvian: ļoti‎, gluži‎, visai‎

What is the origin of the word quite?

According to Etymonline, the word quite has been used since the early 14th century. It is the adverbial form of the Middle English quit meaning free or clear. While this initially meant thoroughly, the sense of the word meaning fairly has been attested since the mid-19th century. 

The word quite comes from the word quit, which according to Etymonline has been used to mean free and clear since circa the year 1200. This word comes from the OPld French quite or Old French quitte, meaning free, clear, at liberty, or discharged. This comes from the Medieval Latin quitus, or quittus from the Latin quietus meaning free, calm, or resting. This comes from the Proto-OIndo-European root kweie, meaning to rest or be quiet.

How can the word quite be used in a sentence?

The word quite is very common and can be seen in many different circumstances to describe things that are done to a partial extent or their greatest extent. In this example, Manny and Jack are talking about their history project.

Manny: I think we’ve done a great job. We have our poster done, our essay finished – I’m quite pleased with the way it looks! What do you think?

Jack: I’m not quite as happy with it. I feel like our poster looks messy and our essay doesn’t make much sense. I really feel like it needs a lot of work.

Manny: You’re quite the perfectionist, Jack. I’m sure our teacher will give us a fine grade.

Jack: I know you’re quite alright with B’s and C’s, but if I don’t bring home an A I’m dead.

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word quite?

There are many different words that someone can use in place of the word quite. These are called synonyms. Synonyms are very useful words and phrases that mean the same thing as a given word or phrase. One might choose to use a synonym if it better fits the situation, if they want to avoid repeating themselves, or if they want to expand their vocabulary. The below list of synonyms for the word quite is provided by Thesaurus.

  • moderately
  • considerably
  • relatively
  • in reality
  • considerably
  • really
  • completely
  • just
  • well
  • entirely
  • purely
  • all in all
  • more or less
  • in toto
  • to some degree
  • very
  • all told
  • truly
  • significantly
  • in fact
  • totally
  • altogether
  • reasonably
  • perfectly
  • in all respects
  • absolutely
  • in truth
  • precisely
  • somewhat
  • positively
  • utterly
  • all
  • fairly
  • pretty
  • rather
  • without reservation
  • actually
  • wholly
  • thoroughly
  • largely
  • fully
  • far

There are also numerous words that have the opposite definition as quite. These words are called antonyms, and they are very useful to know, especially if you tend to negate words with “not” or “no” rather than using a word that means the opposite. This list of antonyms for the word quite is also provided by Thesaurus

  • almost inconceivably
  • somewhat
  • scarcely
  • scantly
  • faintly
  • not quite
  • just
  • not noticeably
  • little
  • no way
  • detectably
  • by a hair
  • not much
  • not markedly
  • rarely
  • not notably
  • once in a blue moon
  • seldom
  • perceptibly
  • simply
  • imperceptibly
  • no more than
  • with trouble
  • almost not
  • not likely
  • pretty near
  • infrequently
  • hardly
  • sporadically
  • comparatively
  • not by much
  • not a bit
  • gradually
  • barely
  • slightly
  • only just
  • practically
  • not often
  • not at all
  • only
  • by no means
  • sparsely
  • not measurably

Overall, the word quite means very much, or rather. People use the word quite to emphasize a degree, amount, or extent to which something is done. This word is also a colloquial british English term of agreement, and is often coupled with the word “not” to form “not quite,” a polite phrase for stating a lack of agreement, incorrect answer, or to express uncertainty.

Sources:

  1. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/quite
  2. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/hardly
  3. https://www.etymonline.com/word/quite
  4. https://www.etymonline.com/word/quit?ref=etymonline_crossreference#etymonline_v_3222
  5. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/quite
  6. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/quite