n. pl. qual·i·ties
a. An inherent or distinguishing characteristic; a property: the medicinal qualities of a plant.
b. A personal trait, especially a character trait: "The most vital quality a soldier can possess is self-confidence" (George S. Patton).
2. Essential character; nature: "The quality of mercy is not strain'd" (Shakespeare).
a. Superiority of kind: an intellect of unquestioned quality.
b. Degree or grade of excellence: yard goods of low quality.
4. Investments that have a low risk of loss or default: the flight to quality.
a. High social position: people of quality.
b. Those in a high social position: likes to associate with quality.
6. Music Timbre, as determined by harmonics: a voice with a distinctive metallic quality.
7. Linguistics The character of a vowel sound determined by the size and shape of the oral cavity and the amount of resonance with which the sound is produced.
8. Logic The positive or negative character of a proposition.
Having a high degree of excellence: the importance of quality health care.
[Middle English qualite, from Old French, from Latin quālitās, quālitāt-, from quālis, of what kind; see kwo- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: quality, attribute, character, property, trait
These nouns signify a feature that distinguishes or identifies someone or something: explained the qualities of noble gases; knew the attributes of a fine wine; liked the rural character of the ranch; tested the resilient property of rubber; had positive traits such as kindness and generosity.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.