From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Illustration by Gustave Doré depicting the famous windmill scene of Don Quixote, in which the hero fights with windmills, which he imagines to be giants.

Quixotism (/kwɪkˈsɒtɪzəm/ or /kˈhtɪzəm/; adj. quixotic) is impracticality in pursuit of ideals, especially those ideals manifested by rash, lofty and romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action.[1] It also serves to describe an idealism without regard to practicality. An impulsive person or act might be regarded as quixotic.

Quixotism is usually related to "over-idealism", meaning an idealism that doesn't take consequence or absurdity into account. It is also related to naïve romanticism and to utopianism.


Quixotism as a term or a quality appeared after the publication of Don Quixote in 1605. Don Quixote, the hero of this novel, written by Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, 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, leading to the related metaphor of "tilting at windmills".

Already in the 17th century the term quixote was used to describe a person who 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.[2]

The word quixotism is mentioned, for the first time, in Pulpit Popery, True Popery (1688):

...all the Heroical Fictions of Ecclesiastical Quixotism...

Spanish language opposes quijotesco ("Quixotic") with sanchopancesco ("lacking idealism, accommodating and chuckling" after Sancho Panza).[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of quixotic
  2. ^ The Phrase Finder: Tilting at windmills
  3. ^ "sanchopancesco". Diccionario de la lengua española (in Spanish) (23.3 electronic ed.). Real Academia Española - Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española. 2019. Retrieved 2 November 2020.