Quid Pro Quo Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

Knowing what a Quid Pro Quo is can help you to understand the world much more effectively. This is what it means and how to use it in context.

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The phrase quid pro quo is one of the most exciting phrases in the modern English vernacular. One of the biggest reasons behind this is that it’s actually a Latin phrase and not even a true English expression! So if you were wondering why you have no idea what the term literally means, that’s a pretty good reason why. 

However, this phrase is still used relatively commonly in the world today. It describes actions that people take everywhere, from the Supreme Court to the workplace to apothecaries. It’s something that some people regard as a tool and a way of life, while other people think of it more as an illegal and rude way to operate within a business. 

Why is the idea of quid pro quo so controversial and divisive in the modern world? Read on to find out what it means, where the phrase comes from, and what it stands for in the contemporary world. 

What Does Quid Pro Quo Mean?

According to the dictionary, quid pro quo in Latin translates to the phrase “something for something” and is used to describe arrangements that operate on the implication that a favor will be exchanged for another favor. It requires the mutual consideration of both parties, and when one person doesn’t respond in like, it can lead to heavy retaliation. 

In many cases, a quid pro quo arrangement is made under the table or in a way that is less than honest in most people’s opinions. While many agreements and exchanges are official acts of law, these kinds of arrangements tend to be a little bit edgier in terms of moral upstandingness. 

Quid pro quo arrangements can be used to acquire a thing of value, influence an employment decision, or void a breach of conduct. For example, quid pro quo arrangements often happen between an employee and their boss or supervisor to get job benefits or advancements. However, in many cases, a quid pro-quo-based culture results in sexual demand, unwanted sexual advances, and a hostile work environment. 

Most workplaces discourage these arrangements because of things like a quid pro quo sexual harassment claim and quid pro quo harassment. However, they still go on under the table fairly commonly, regardless of complaints against them. 

Where does Quid Pro Quo Come From? 

This term comes very directly from the Latin quid prō quō, which has virtually the same meaning in the modern world. However, the origin of quid pro quo being used in the English language itself is more interesting. 

Around the mid 16th century, the phrase quid pro quo was implemented into the language to talk about different kinds of medicine that could be substituted for each other. This was a phrase used by doctors and apothecaries for a long time until it started to be used in more contexts of the English language. 

As time went on, the term quid pro quo became virtually interchangeable with phrases like “tit for tat,” as well as many others. In many cases, the idea of a quid pro quo trade isn’t a bad thing and is actually just seen as a way that transactions happen in the modern world. But even still, the actual words quid pro quo tend to bring a connotation with them that is much more overtly negative and apt to create a negative association with what will happen. 

How is Quid Pro Quo Arrangements Dealt with in the Modern World? 

In many cases, quid pro quo arrangements can get people into various complications with the consequences. If a complaint about a quid pro quo arrangement that goes against the company’s statute gets to the wrong, the people might need to go to court. In these situations, a jury will have to decide whether sexual favors, dishonest donations, or other sketchy activities can be condemned with definitive proof. 

There are many places in the world today where quid pro quo arrangements have led to incredibly unexpected side effects, with some of the most famous ones being in the White House. Due to the nature of politics and American heritage, it has affected everyone, from former president Donald Trump to America’s founding fathers. These situations can sometimes lead to an impeachment inquiry simply because of people’s adverse reactions to them. 

Examples of Quid Pro Quo in Real Sentences

Here are some excellent examples of the phrase quid pro quo used in an actual sentence. It’s not always easy to learn how to use a word without seeing it in the context of a sentence, so it’s essential to make sure you understand examples of it being used.

Here are some example sentences to help enlighten your knowledge of quid pro quo: 

  • Many Democrats called out President Trump’s quid pro quo tactics while he was in office.
  • Last November, a phone call leaked that exposed the military aid as just a quid pro quo for the president of Ukraine. 
  • Even though the donor seemed to be honest enough, the actual foundation of all the money he gave was a quid pro quo arrangement. 
  • I set up a quid pro quo: I buy him lunch, and he makes the word “banana” word of the day on the dictionary website. 
  • In the copyright case, the jurisdictions that were made determined that the whole mix-up was based on a quid pro quo deal between the board members. 


If you want to learn how to use the English language in new ways, one of the best moves you can make is to check out our blog here at The Word Counter. We’ve got tons of articles already up, and we’re constantly adding more helpful resources to enable you to get the most out of your communication skills so that you can genuinely advance in life! 

So much of people’s success in the world is based on their ability to communicate with people. When you can bend and use the English language to your advantage, it will help you advance in ways you probably didn’t even think possible! The Word Counter is here to help you get there as quickly and efficiently as possible.


  1. Quid Pro Quo: Definition & Example | Investopedia
  2. Quid pro quo Definition & Meaning | Dictionary.com
  3. Political Quid Pro Quo Agreements: An Experimental Study | JSTOR