AskDefine | Define Quixotism

Dictionary Definition

quixotism n : quixotic (romantic and impractical) behavior [syn: knight errantry]

Extensive Definition

Quixotism is the description of a person or an act that is caught up in the romance of noble deeds and the pursuit of unreachable goals. It also serves to describe an idealism without regard to practicality. An impulsive person or act can be regarded as quixotic.
Quixotism is usually related to "over-idealism", meaning an idealism that doesn't take the consequences into account. It is also related to naïve romanticism and to utopianism.

Origin

Quixotism as a term or a quality appeared after the publication of El ingenioso hidalgo don Quixote de la Mancha in 1605. The hero of this novel, that is written by the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes, dreams up a romantic ideal world which he believes to be real, and acts on this idealism, which most famously leads him into imaginary fights with windmills that he regards as giants.
Already in the 17th century the term Quixote was used to describe a person that does not distinguish between reality and imagination. The poet John Cleveland wrote in 1644, in his book The character of a London diurnall:
"The Quixotes of this Age fight with the Wind-mills of their owne Heads" http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/tilting-at-windmills.html
The word Quixotism is mentioned, for the first time, in Pulpit Popery, True Popery (1688):
"All the Heroical Fictions of Ecclesiastical Quixotism"

Usage

"At worst his scruples must have been quixotic, not malicious" (Louis Auchincloss)
A song by the Red Hot Chili Peppers is titled "Quixoticelixir."
Quixotism in Spanish: Quijotería
Quixotism in Hebrew: דון קישוטיות
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