Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Charmingly odd, especially in an old-fashioned way: "Sarah Orne Jewett . . . was dismissed by one critic as merely a New England old maid who wrote quaint, plotless sketches of late 19th-century coastal Maine” ( James McManus).
  • adj. Unfamiliar or unusual in character; strange: quaint dialect words. See Synonyms at strange.
  • adj. Cleverly made; artful.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Prudent; wise; hence, crafty; artful; wily.
  • adj. Characterized by ingenuity or art; finely fashioned; skillfully wrought; elegant; graceful; nice; neat.
  • adj. Curious and fanciful; affected; odd; whimsical; antique; archaic; singular; unusual

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Known; familiar.
  • Artful; clever; cunning; crafty; wily.
  • Artificial; ingenious; elaborate; curious; pretty; elegant; fine.
  • Fanciful; odd; whimsical: as, a quaint phrase; a quaint talker.
  • Odd and antique; old-fashioned; curious; odd in any way.
  • Affectedly nice; squeamish; prim.
  • = Syn.5. Old, Antique, etc. See ancient.
  • Elegantly.
  • To acquaint; inform; cause to know.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. attractively old-fashioned (but not necessarily authentic)
  • adj. very strange or unusual; odd or even incongruous in character or appearance
  • adj. strange in an interesting or pleasing way

Etymologies

Middle English, clever, cunning, peculiar, from Old French queinte, cointe, from Latin cognitus, past participle of cognōscere, to learn; see cognition.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Anglo-Norman cointe, queinte et al., Old French cointe ("pretty, clever, knowing"), from Latin cognitus, past participle of cognoscere ("to know"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • She confesses to Hicks in a letter in 1943 that she had abandoned what you call my 'quaint virginity cult' some time ago & haven't regretted it for one second.

    The Good Apprentice

  • PILGRIM: Bill, Bush nominee Alberto Gonzales is in the spotlight because of a memo he wrote to his White House legal counsel talking about new definitions of torture and the Geneva Convention provisions which he called quaint and talking about special people for war on terror, special rules for war on terror.

    CNN Transcript Dec 23, 2004

  • Covert, they read, in quaint carved letters under the eave of the porch.

    CHAPTER XVIII

  • Instead, he characterizes what, from the Palestinian point of view is the Israeli land grab, in quaint Israeli partisan terms, ie: family expansion.

    Must Palestine Be Judenrein?

  • Elizabeth McCutchen and a friend were walking to book club two weeks ago in quaint Farmville, Virginia, when they strolled by a home on First Avenue.

    ‘Horrorcore’ singer suspected in Virginia killings

  • The story starts off in quaint fashion, as Vlad's English teacher gets offed by a mysterious vampire hunting Vlad.

    Book Review: "Eighth Grade Bites" by Heather Brewer

  • The crumbling downtown building represents everything old and quaint from a simpler, slower time.

    Inventive “Be Kind Rewind” skates right by » Scene-Stealers

  • Who that has known a man quick and shrewd to see dispassionately the inner history, the reason and the ends, of the combinations of society, and at the same time eloquent to tell of them, with a hold on the attention gained by a certain quaint force and sagacity resident in no other man, can find it difficult to understand why men still resort to Montesquieu?

    How Books Become Immortal

  • You remind me of certain quaint folks I have met who assume H. P.Lovecraft's "Necronomicon" must really exist, or, similarly for Tolkein's "Red Book of Westermarch".

    Balkinization

  • Spring training was in quaint little Florida and Arizona towns then.

    USATODAY.com - Spring training has different look than in 1950s and 60s

Comments

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  • Andrew Marvell's ingenious use of the word needs to be seen in its context fully to be appreciated: "Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound/My echoing song; then worms shall try/That long preserv'd virginity/And your quaint honour turn to dust/And into ashes all my lust/The grave's a fine and private place/But none I think do there embrace".

    April 17, 2012

  • From Latin cognitum "known", then proceeding via senses such as "knowing, clever" to "cleverly made, ingenious" to "of interesting or curious make" to its present meaning with the sense of old-fashionedness. Not related at all to 'cunt', but used as a pun by mediaeval writers that way.

    March 8, 2009

  • In other words, it meant the c-word. Thankfully, Weirdnet ignores that.

    October 1, 2008

  • Can be a noun too. as in Shakespeare's "Midsummer-Night's Dream" Act 2 Sc. 2, where Titania says to Oberon:"The nine-men's morris is filled up with mud; and the quaint mazes in the wanton green...". In some editions a glossary explains that a 'quaint-maze' (sic) is a unicursal running maze in the shape of figure of eight. But there is no doubt that Shakespeare was contrasing here phallic and muliebrile elements via the Chaucerian faux-archaic 'queynte'. i.e. quaint-mazes were medieval mazes shaped like a queynte, and are the long spiral-shaped ones depicted on ancient coins, having no nodes.

    October 1, 2008

  • "In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions." -Alberto Gonzales, 2002

    December 12, 2006