Legal Dictionary

quid pro quo

Legal Definition of quid pro quo


    Latin Origin


  1. Something for something. The giving of something in exchange for another thing of equal value.

Definition of quid pro quo


    From Latin : "what for what".


  • (UK) IPA: /ˌkwɪd.pɹəʊˈkwəʊ/
  • (US) IPA: /ˌkwɪd.pɹoʊˈkwoʊ/


quid pro quo (plural quid pro quos or quae pro quibus or quid pro quibus)

  1. Something understood as another ; an equivocation.

    * 1844, Arthur Schopenhauer, translated by Richard Burdon Haldane, The World as Will and Representation, 2nd edition, first book, section 13:
    The misunderstanding of the word or the quid pro quo is the unintentional pun, and is related to it exactly as folly is to wit.

    * 1912, Fyodor Dostoevsky, translated by Constance Garnett, The Brothers Karamazov, part II, book V, chapter 5:
    “Is it simply a wild fantasy, or a mistake on the part of the old man - some impossible quid pro quo?”

  2. (law) This for that; giving something to receive something else ; something equivalent ; something in return.

    * 1895, Uchimura Kanzo, The Diary of a Japanese Convert, chapter 1:
    No less weightier was to be the youth's consideration for his master, who was to him no mere school teacher or college professor on quid pro quo principle, but a veritable didaskalos, in whom he could and must completely confide the care of his body and soul.

    * 2002, Barry G. Silverman, Sklar v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue - Concurrence by Judge Silverman (2002):
    Section 170 states that quid pro quo donations, for which a taxpayer receives something in return, are not deductible.

  3. An equal exchange.

    We had no money so we had to live by quid pro quo.

Further reading

Quid pro quo ("what for what" in Latin) most often means a more-or-less equal exchange or substitution of goods or services. English speakers often use the term to mean "a favour for a favour" and the phrases with almost identical meaning include: "give and take", "tit for tat", "this for that", and "you scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours".

Legal usage

In legal usage, 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. For example, under the common law, a binding contract must involve consideration: that is, the exchange of something of value for something else of economic value. 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 void by law.

Similarly, political donors 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. The term may also be used to describe blackmail, where a person offers to refrain from some harmful conduct in return for valuable consideration.

Quid pro quo harassment occurs when employment or academic decisions or expectations (hiring, promotions, salary increases, shift or work assignments, performance standards, grades, access to recommendations, assistance with school work, etc.) are based on an employee or student's submission to or rejection of sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other behaviour of a sexual nature. These cases involve tangible actions that adversely affect either the conditions of work or academic progress.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


1.     lex causae
2.     lex situs
3.     lex loci celebrationis
4.     lex patriae
5.     Clayton's Case
6.     lex domicilii
7.     AORO
8.     lex loci delicti commissi
9.     defence of property
10.     Miranda warning