What is a ‘quid pro quo’?

[kwid pro kwoh]

Tit for tat. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. Or, if you want to get a little fancier, quid pro quo.

This is a Latin-derived expression referring to something done for someone in exchange for something of equal value in return.

Related words:

  • one good turn deserves another
  • pay for play
  • QPQ
  • reciprocity
  • trade-off
  • win-win




cancel culture

What Is a ‘Quid pro Quo’?


In Latin, quid pro quo literally means “something for something” or “one thing for another.”

The expression was notably used in the Middle Ages by apothecaries who were figuring out what substances may be substituted for another (quid pro quo) in medicines. The phrase was added to a 1535 English translation of Dutch humanist Erasmus, who apparently questioned the questionable quid-pro-quoing of these quacks.

What Is a ‘Quid pro Quo’?


By the late 1500s, quid pro quo spread from medicine into general contexts for a “tit for tat.” A 17th century history on the reign of King Charles, for instance, described Christianity as a quid pro quo in that people must repent for redemption.

What Is a ‘Quid pro Quo’?

Quid pro quo especially made its way into legal, political, and commerical texts by the 19th century, a useful shorthand for all sorts of reciprocal exchanges.

Since the late 20th century in labor law, quid pro quo is widely used as a name for a type of workplace sexual harassment in which an employer holds an employee’s job hostage in return for sexual favors.

The Weinsteins and their company “repeatedly and persistently treated female employees less well than male-employees through gender-based hostile workplace harassment, quid pro quo harassment, and discrimination” https://t.co/FvjDMhUT91

— Variety (@Variety) February 11, 2018

…being asked (facetiously) to edit FB updates. Is there a more thankless chore? What would be good quid pro quo? #fb

@DorisTruong, April, 2009

Police investigators rolled into the Prime Minister’s Residence Tuesday morning to interrogate Benjamin Netanyahu in the high-profile Bezeq graft probe, having acquired new evidence from a key state’s witness reportedly implicating him in an illicit quid pro quo deal.

Raoul Wootliff, The Times of Israel, June, 2018

Despite what you've heard, Mueller doesn't have to prove a quid pro quo to prove a #TrumpRussia conspiracy. A quid pro quo is required to prove bribery, but it's not an element of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. (Not to say such proof is lacking, just that it's not required.)

@Delavegalaw, June, 2018




cancel culture

Quid pro quo can be used as noun (e.g., we have a quid pro quo with our landlord) or as a modifier (e.g., we have a quid pro quo deal with our client). Either way, the phrase is used in everyday speech and writing generally to mean “trade,” “exchange,” or “agreement.”

What Is a ‘Quid pro Quo’?

In business contexts, quid pro quo can have a positive or neutral connotation, characterizing a fair contract involving the exchange of goods or services for compensation.

In political contexts, however, quid pro quo reeks of corruption, where quid pro quo arrangements with lobbyists suggests bribery or “pay for play.”

Quid pro quo

У этого термина существуют и другие значения, см. Квипрокво.
Не следует путать с Quiproquo.

Quid pro quo, Квипрокво́[1] или кипроко[2] (от лат.

 Quid pro quo — «то за это») — фразеологизм, обычно используемый в английском языке в значении «услуга за услугу»[3].

В испанском, итальянском, португальском, французском языках используется другой, очень похожий по звучанию, но имеющий другое значение фразеологизм латинского происхождения — «Quiproquo».


Слово возникло с помощью лексико-семантического способа словообразования, путём сращения (после транслитерации лат. выражения quid pro quo в кви про кво) оборота в слово в начале 30-х годов XX в.

Квипрокво по своему происхождению аналогично словам бомонд, игрек, сальто-мортале и т. п.

: из французского i grec «и греческое», итальянского salto mortale «смертельное сальто», французского beau monde «прекрасный мир»).[1]


Слово Quid pro quo используется в контексте транскрипции или переписывания данных текста[4]. Не следует путать с Quiproquo, которое применяется в театральном контексте. Quid pro quo указывает на более или менее равный обмен услугами или товарами.

Фраза часто используется в современном английском языке, наряду с такими фразами как «a favor for a favor» (услуга за услугу), «what for what» (что за что), «give and take» (давать и брать), «tit for tat» (око за око), «this for that» (то за это), а также «you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours» (ты почеши мне спину, а я почешу твою). В английском языке обычно латинская фраза Quid pro quo означает do ut des (букв. я даю, чтобы вы могли дать).

Квипрокво (Quid pro quo) применяется в законодательстве как договор об обмене ценными вещами (товарами). Согласно общему праву, договор должен включать рассмотрение ценности товаров. Суды некоторых стран, при неравноценном обмене, могут признать квипрокво (услугу за услугу) недействительным[5].

Также бывает квипрокво домогательств (Quid pro quo sexual harassment), которое предполагает сексуальные домогательства, просьбы о сексуальных услугах или другое поведение сексуального характера.

В обмен предлагается благоприятная обстановка в учёбе или на работе, или же положительное решение каких-либо проблем (наём, продвижение по службе, увеличение заработной платы, помощь в работе школы и т. д.).

Данные случаи включают практические действия, которые негативно влияют либо на условия труда или на академическую успеваемость[уточнить].

В драматургии Quid pro quo — ситуация недоразумения, когда одно лицо, вещь, понятие принято за другое (например, в романе Марка Твена «Принц и нищий» нищий Том Кенти принят за принца Эдуарда, и наоборот).

См. также

  • Паронимия
  • Quiproquo
  • Список латинских фраз
  • Око за око
  • Политический скандал вокруг разговора Трампа и Зеленского


  1. 1 2 Квипрокво // Н. М. Шанский, «Русский язык в школе». 2003
  2. ↑ Толковый словарь русского языка под ред. Д. Н. Ушакова
  3. ↑ Merriam-Webster, the Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Fourth Edition), and the New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (Third Edition)[1] Архивная копия от 18 августа 2007 на Wayback Machine all so define the Latin expression.
  4. ↑ «Blunder made by using or putting one thing for another (now rare)» — Concise Oxford Dictionary, 4th edition, 1950.
  5. ↑ One such example is section 2-302 of the Uniform Commercial Code (неопр.). Архивировано 13 июля 2012 года.

Quid pro quo

Latin phrase meaning “something for something”
This article is about the meaning and use of the Latin term. For other uses, see Quid pro quo (disambiguation).
Antichristus,[1] a woodcut by Lucas Cranach the Elder, of the pope using the temporal power to grant authority to a ruler contributing generously to the Catholic Church

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Quid pro quo (“something for something” in Latin[2]) is a Latin phrase used in English to mean an exchange of goods or services, in which one transfer is contingent upon the other; “a favor for a favor”. Phrases with similar meanings include: “give and take”, “tit for tat”, “you scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours”, and “one hand washes the other”. Other languages use other phrases for the same purpose.


The Latin phrase quid pro quo originally implied that something had been substituted, as in this instead of that.

Early usage by English speakers followed the original Latin meaning, with occurrences in the 1530s where the term referred to substituting one medicine for another, whether unintentionally or fraudulently.

By the end of the same century, quid pro quo evolved into a more current use to describe equivalent exchanges.[3]

In 1654, the expression quid pro quo was used to generally refer to something done for personal gain or with the expectation of reciprocity in the text The Reign of King Charles: An History Disposed into Annalls, with a somewhat positive connotation. It refers to the covenant with Christ as something “that prove not a nudum pactum, a naked contract, without quid pro quo.” Believers in Christ have to do their part in return, namely “foresake the devil and all his works”. [4]

Quid pro quo would go on to be used, by English speakers in legal and diplomatic contexts, as an exchange of equally valued goods or services and continues to be today.[5]

The Latin phrase corresponding to the usage of quid pro quo in English is do ut des (Latin for “I give, so that you may give”).

[6] Other languages continue to use do ut des for this purpose, while quid pro quo (or its equivalent qui pro quo, as widely used in Italian, French and Spanish) still keeps its original meaning of something being unwillingly mistaken, or erroneously told or understood, instead of something else.

Legal meanings

Common law

In common law, quid pro quo indicates that an item or a service has been traded in return for something of value, usually when the propriety or equity of the transaction is in question.

A contract must involve consideration: that is, the exchange of something of value for something else of value.

For example, when buying an item of clothing or a gallon of milk, a pre-determined amount of money is exchanged for the product the customer is purchasing; therefore, they have received something but have given up something of equal value in return.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the one-sidedness of a contract is covered by the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 and various revisions and amendments to it; a clause can be held void or the entire contract void if it is deemed unfair (that is to say, one-sided and not a quid pro quo); however this is a civil law and not a common law matter.

Political donors must be resident in the UK.

There are fixed limits to how much they may donate (£5000 in any single donation), and it must be recorded in the House of Commons Register of Members' Interests or at the House of Commons Library; the quid pro quo is strictly not allowed, that a donor can by his donation have some personal gain. This is overseen by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. There are also prohibitions on donations being given in the six weeks before the election for which it is being campaigned.[citation needed] It is also illegal for donors to support party political broadcasts, which are tightly regulated, free to air, and scheduled and allotted to the various parties according to a formula agreed by Parliament and enacted with the Communications Act 2003.

United States

In the United States, if the exchange appears excessively one sided, courts in some jurisdictions may question whether a quid pro quo did actually exist and the contract may be held void.

In cases of “Quid Pro Quo” business contracts, the term takes on a negative connotation because major corporations may cross ethical boundaries in order to enter into these very valuable, mutually beneficial, agreements with other major big businesses.

In these deals, large sums of money are often at play and can consequently lead to promises of exclusive partnerships indefinitely or promises of distortion of economic reports, for example.[7][8]

In the U.S., lobbyists are legally entitled to support candidates that hold positions with which the donors agree, or which will benefit the donors. Such conduct becomes bribery only when there is an identifiable exchange between the contribution and official acts, previous or subsequent, and the term quid pro quo denotes such an exchange.[9]

Sexual harassment

‘Quid pro quo’ is more legalese than Latin

Amid the drama of the impeachment investigation into US President Donald Trump that is gripping Capitol Hill in Washington, the term quid pro quo has taken center stage.

The investigation is trying to determine whether Trump demanded Ukraine open an investigation into Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, before its President Volodymr Zelenskiy would be invited to the White House.

In his opening statement on Nov. 20 in a series of impeachment hearings, the US ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, said: “Was there a quid pro quo? … With regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.

A popular online legal dictionary defines the Latin phrase as: “The mutual consideration that passes between two parties to a contractual agreement, thereby rendering the agreement valid and binding.”

In Latin, the phrase means literally “what for what,” or “something for something” (quid being short for aliquid, or “something”).

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One issue with quid pro quo is that the sense in which the phrase is used nowadays is subtly different from its original use.

The invaluable online version of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) states its first recorded use in English is from about 1535, in a translation of a work about Christian confession by the humanist writer Erasmus. There it is explained as “one thynge for another.

” The context here was medical: the Erasmian text where it was first found describes it as a proverb used among “poticaries and phisions” (chemists and doctors in modern terms) and it is used with reference to medicines.

Let’s say you have trouble sleeping and can’t get your usual Somnotab, but the pharmacist has another sleeping tablet, Zizzoprene.

Taking Zizzoprene instead of Somnotab would be a quid pro quo in the strict sense, something which can be readily exchanged for another.

This sense didn’t bed into English long term, and the last reference to this meaning in the Oxford English Dictionary Online is from 1804.

It wasn’t long, though, before the sense we generally know, “something in return for something else,” came in—OED says it is first mentioned in a legal document from 1560, also listed in the OED. It has kept this sense ever since.

Another sense for the phrase, “someone pretending to be somebody they are not,” apparently died out before 1700. But both ideas would be expressed in Latin by quid pro quo—or so scholars think.

The phrase doesn’t occur in a huge corpus of classical Latin texts collated by Packhard Humanities Institute, so we can’t truly be sure if it was ever actually used in Latin.

Common parlance

The fact that a phrase from another language isn’t accompanied by an immediate translation should suggest that everyone understands it and that it is now firmly part of the language.

My own research and others’ in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Language Contact, which I edited, suggests that this is a good sign that it has therefore been fully “nativized.

” But that should not be taken for granted.

Some phrases are used so often that people now neither know nor care what the original form was (AD is a good example, as are AM and PM).

Others are written down but are hardly used in speech except when people are being especially pretentious or stiff: ie and eg (which often get confused) are examples of this.

Some, such as percent and et cetera, will probably be used in English till the crack of doom.

The Trump impeachment is all about an allegation of quid pro quo. But what does that mean?


Republican Senator Lindsey Graham says he has no plans to read the transcripts released by the House impeachment inquiry. (Nov. 6) AP Domestic

WASHINGTON – Quid pro quo. It's hard to say and can require some nuance to prove, but it's the phrase at the center of a contentious impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

Did he withhold military aid to Ukraine by pressuring the country to investigate his political rivals? Trump and his staunch supporters say no. The Democrats say yes. Either way, the idea of quid pro quo stands firmly at the base of the investigation. 

So, what is it? To the dictionary, we go. 

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the Latin phrase as simply, “something given or received for something else.” Often, quid pro quos can be seen in cases of bribery and extortion.

Why the Democrats think Trump is guilty of it 

The entire controversy over a quid pro quo started with the July 25 phone call between Trump and the newly-elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In that call, Trump asked Zelensky to open an investigation into Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, and his business dealings with the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma. 

Reading Into Quid Pro Quo

Quid pro quo, a 14th-century Latin term for “something for something,” describes when two parties engage in a mutual agreement to exchange goods or services. In a quid pro quo agreement, one transfer is contingent upon a reciprocal transfer. In business and legal contexts, quid pro quo conveys that a good or service has been exchanged for something of equal value.

The key to a quid pro quo business agreement is a consideration, which may take the form of a good, service, money, or financial instrument. Such considerations equate to a contract in which something is provided and something of equal value is returned in exchange. Without such considerations, a court may find a contract to be invalid or nonbinding.

Also, if the agreement appears one-sided, courts may deem the contract void. Any individual, business, or other entity should know what is expected of both parties to enter into a contract.

A bartering arrangement between two parties is an example of a quid pro quo business agreement. In other contexts, a quid pro quo may entail more of a questionably ethical “favor for a favor” arrangement rather than a balanced exchange of equally valued goods or services.

Quid pro quo arrangements can have negative connotations in certain contexts.

For example, in a quid pro quo agreement between an investment bank's research arm and a public company, the bank might amend their rating of the company's shares in exchange for underwriting business.

In response to these potential conflicts of interest, US financial regulators have investigated and issued rules to ensure that firms put customers' interests before their own in issuing stock ratings.

Another example of a quid pro quo agreement in business is a soft dollar agreement. In a soft dollar agreement, one firm (Firm A) uses another firm's (Firm B) research.

In exchange, Firm B executes all of Firm A's trades. This exchange of services is used as payment in lieu of a traditional, hard dollar payment.

Research has shown that transactions executed under soft dollar arrangements cost more than execution-only arrangements.

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Still, soft dollar arrangements such as these are legal in the US and other places, though discouraged in some jurisdictions.

  • Quid pro quo, Latin for something for something, describes an agreement between two or more parties in which there is an exchange of goods or services.
  • Courts may render a contract void if it appears unfair or one-sided.
  • In politics, quid pro quo agreements are acceptable as long as they do not imply bribery or any other misappropriation.

Quid pro quo arrangements may also exist in the political realm. In exchange for donations, a politician may be obliged to provide a future consideration regarding policymaking or decision-making.

Such a quid pro quo does not imply a bribe, however, merely the understanding that the politician will consider the donor's wishes when creating policy or voting on legislation. Much controversy surrounds quid pro quo in politics—so much so that, in the last 40 years, many cases have appeared before the Supreme Court to define what constitutes an illegal agreement.

In the US, the Federal Election Campaign Act limits the number of contributions made to a campaign by donors.

What is quid pro quo and does it matter?

“The 360” shows you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories.

What’s happening

Quid pro quo. Quid pro quo. Quid pro quo. A phrase that was previously unknown to anyone who wasn’t a legal expert or Latin enthusiast suddenly seems to be the most important three words in America. 

The impeachment inquiry into President Trump has brought the saying — which translates as “something for something” — into the popular lexicon. At issue is whether Trump should be impeached for withholding $391 million in aid money (the quid) in order to compel Ukraine to investigate the business dealings of Joe Biden’s son (the quo). 

The phrase literally means an exchange between two parties, but it has historically carried a connotation of impropriety. The question of a quid pro quo is frequently raised in legal cases considering corruption, bribery and extortion. 

Why there’s debate

Much of the public debate since the launch of the impeachment inquiry has centered around whether available evidence proves the existence of a quid pro quo.

Trump has repeatedly said there was no quid pro quo in his dealings with Ukraine. Democrats say they have clear evidence of one. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said a quid pro quo “happens all the time” and everyone should “get over it,” before later retracting those statements.

Not everyone believes a quid pro quo is the key to impeachment, however. Rep. Adam Schiff, who’s leading the inquiry for the Democrats, said “there doesn’t need to be a quid pro quo” to determine that the president abused his power. Some Republicans, on the other hand, have argued that quid pro quos are common in foreign policy.


(redirected from Quid-pro-quo)Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Financial.

[Latin, What for what or Something for something.] The mutual consideration that passes between two parties to a contractual agreement, thereby rendering the agreement valid and binding.

In common usage, quid pro quo refers to the giving of one valuable thing for another. Quid pro quo has the same meaning in the law but with varying implications in different contexts.

Quid pro quo, or the exchange of valuable consideration, is required for the formation of a valid contract between individuals who are not merchants. This requirement of mutual consideration, or the exchange of something of value, indicates the sincerity of the parties' intent to adhere to the contract between them.

The term quid pro quo is also used in the contexts of politics and Sexual Harassment. In politics quid quo pro can refer to the use of political office for personal benefit. For instance, an elected official might promise favorable governmental treatment to a person in exchange for something of value.

This form of quid pro quo would be a violation of the law. On the federal level, the Hobbs Act (18 U.S.C.A. § 1951 [1994]) makes it a felony for a public official to extort property under color of office. Trading campaign contributions for promises of official actions or inactions are also prohibited under the act.

In the area of sexual harassment, quid pro quo describes a form of sexual blackmail. Quid pro quo sexual harassment is the conditioning of employment benefits on an employee's sub-mission to unwelcome sexual conduct. Title VII of the civil rights act (42 U.S.C.A. § 2000 (e)-2 [1988]) provides a remedy for quid pro quo sexual harassment.

Most courts follow the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's guidelines and hold that the necessary quid pro quo exists if submission to unwelcome sexual advances “is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment” or if submission to unwelcome sexual advances “is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual” (29 C.F.R. § 1604.11(a)(1)-(2) [1997]).

Further readings

Dickinson, Lynn T. 1995. “Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment: A New Standard.” William and Mary Journal of Women and the Law 2 (fall).

Yarbrough, Steven C. 1996. “The Hobbs Act in the Nineties: Confusion of the Quid Pro Quo Standard in Extortion Cases Involving Public Officials.” Tulsa Law Journal 31 (summer).

(kwid proh kwoh) n. Latin for “something for something,” to identify what each party to an agreement expects from the other, sometimes called mutual consideration. Example of its use: “What is the quid pro quo for my entering into this deal?” (See: consideration)

‘something in exchange for something else’.

QUID PRO QUO. This phrase signifies verbatim, what for what. It is applied to the consideration of a contract. See Co. Litt. 47, b; 7 Mann. & Gr. 998.

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