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Quid pro quo (From the Latin meaning "something for something") indicates a more-or-less equal exchange or substitution of goods or services. English speakers often use the term to mean "a favor for a favor" and the phrases with almost identical meaning include: "what for what," "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 (except in Scotland), 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 ("This for That") 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 behavior of a sexual nature. These cases involve tangible actions that adversely affect either the conditions of work or academic progress.

Other meanings

Quid pro quo may less commonly refer to something (originally a medicine) given or used in place of another.

Quid pro quo may sometimes be used to define a misunderstanding or blunder made by the substituting of one thing for another, particularly in the context of the transcribing of a text. More common (and correct) the original phrase qui pro quo (see below).

Quid pro quo may sometimes be described as the idiom,"You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours". In legislative contexts, it may take the form of vote trading. It may also describe the reverse situation, for example when a donor expects something in return later.

Quid pro quo is often used as a term in Englandmarker to mean 'What's in it for me?'

Quid Pro Quo was an Internet server package for Classic MacOS.

The word Quid is a Britishmarker slang term for a unit/units of the currency Pound Sterling (e.g., Twenty Pounds/ Twenty Quid) and is believed to come from the phrase Quid pro quo, referring to currency as a means of exchange.

Related phrases

The phrase qui pro quo, or quiproquo (from medieval Latin: literally qui instead of quo) is common in languages such as Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and French, where it means a misunderstanding.

In those languages, the phrase corresponding to the usage of quid pro quo in English is do ut des (Latin for "I give, so that you may give").

In popular culture

  • Used by Ellen Wolf in the series Dexter season 3, episode 4: "All in the Family". "I like the sound of the quid, but what's the pro quo?"
  • Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs (novel and film) uses this phrase to demand personal information from the FBImarker's agent Clarice Starling in exchange for information.
  • Hank Moody, played by David Duchovny in the Showtime T.V. show Californication uses this line when talking to a girl in bed that he had slept with. She states, "You're nice to me, I am nice to you.." to which Moody replies, "That's very quid pro quo..."
  • "Quid pro quo" is also the name of the third installment of the Halo 3 Video Documentaries.
  • In The Lion King the phrase is used in the song "Be Prepared" by Scar when he is talking to the Hyenas about helping him.
  • In the Season 1 episode of Prison Break ("Sleight of Hand"), Scofield uses the phrase in relation to his agreement with mob boss Falzone. Scofield was to give Falzone the location of Fibonacci (a man in witness protection who witnessed a murder Falzone committed and who planned to testify against him) in exchange for $200,000 in cash once he escapes from prison.
  • In World of Warcraft the succubus warlock pet uses the phrase when ordered to attack.
  • In Veronica Mars, Aaron Echolls used this phrase when Kendall Casablancas propositioned him while he was in prison awaiting trial for murder.
  • In Apollo Justice, Justice uses this phrase when Phoenix Wright decides to help with anything he can, as long as there's no money involved.
  • In Disney's Aladdin, the genie uses the phrase "There are a few provisos, a couple of quid pro quos" when Aladdin asks if the genie will grant him any three wishes he wants. The genie then proceeds to list the types of wish he cannot grant.
  • In Halo 3, on the opening level of Sierra 117, the last fight area to rescue Johnson is titled Quid Pro Quo.
  • In the Broadway adaptation of The Little Mermaid, during the song "Poor Unfortunate Souls", Ursula states that there is a squid pro quo in her deal with Ariel.
  • Quid Pro Quo is name of a film made by Carlos Brooks released in 2008.
  • An episode of Boston Legal is titled "Squid Pro Quo" - a reference to an aspect of the trial in that episode, and a supporting character referred to as "The Squid."
  • In the book The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.
  • In the theme for Jonny English, "Man for All Seasons", it is part of a line in the song.
  • In Austin Powers in Goldmember, Dr. Evil uses the phrase "quid pro quo" referring to the exchange of Nigel Power's whereabouts for Dr. Evil's transfer to a state prison. Austin responds to this by saying, "Yes, squid pro row."
  • Used twice in Loaded Weapon I, once by Hannibal Leecher describing himself, and once by General Mortars describing a trade.
  • In The Beatles Yellow Submarine 1968. The "Nowhere man" helps them with the motor of their broken sub and at the end of his little rant, he says : "a quid pro quo, so little time, so much to know!"
  • In the song "Ghostflowers" By Otep "Quid pro quo" is whispered after the first few lines of the song.
  • In Dan Brown's novel Angels and Demons, the Hassassin mentions this phrase to Langdon, Vetra and the Camerlengo.
  • In The Invisible Man 's Episode The Devil you know, the new/temporary Director of The Agency Luke Lawson mentions the phrase "Quid Pro Quo" to Darien Fawkes, who is suppose to assassinate a terrorist as he is about enter Quicksilver Madness .
  • In The Hangover, when the Asian "mobster" is talking to the three co-stars.

See also


  1. Merriam-Webster, the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Fourth Edition), and the New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (Third Edition)[1] all so define the Latin expression.
  2. One such example is
  3. "Blunder made by using or putting one thing for another (now rare)" – Concise Oxford Dictionary, 4th edition, 1950.
  4. Qui pro quo used to refer to a copying mistake made by a scribe, qui being the nominative case and quo the ablative case of the same personal pronoun. Further information may be found in the AWADmail Issue 49.

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