Quaint is what a jaded New Yorker will use to describe a backwards, simple country town, say deep in Pennsylvania. Note the patronizing tone inherent to such.

In addition to its modern sense, in Middle English 'queynte' also = 'cunt'.
For, certeyn, olde dotard, by youre leve,
Ye shul have queynte right ynogh at eve.

Is it for ye wolde have my queynte allone?

Geoffrey Chaucer, The Wife of Bath's Prologue

As clerkes ben ful subtile and ful queynte;
And prively he caughte hire by the queynte
Geoffrey Chaucer, The Miller's Tale

The usage in Chaucer is clearly vulgar: the word occurs not in the poet's own voice but in the monologues of two of his most plain-speaking characters, the Miller and the Wife of Bath.

Quaint (?), a. [OE. queint, queynte, coint, prudent, wise, cunning, pretty, odd, OF. cointe cultivated, amiable, agreeable, neat, fr. L. cognitus known, p. p. of cognoscere to know; con + noscere (for gnoscere) to know. See Know, and cf. Acquaint, Cognition.]


Prudent; wise; hence, crafty; artful; wily.


Clerks be full subtle and full quaint. Chaucer.


Characterized by ingenuity or art; finely fashioned; skillfully wrought; elegant; graceful; nice; neat.

[Archaic] " The queynte ring." " His queynte spear." Chaucer. " A shepherd young quaint."


Every look was coy and wondrous quaint. Spenser.

To show bow quaint an orator you are. Shak.


Curious and fanciful; affected; odd; whimsical; antique; archaic; singular; unusual; as, quaint architecture; a quaint expression.

Some stroke of quaint yet simple pleasantry. Macaulay.

An old, long-faced, long-bodied servant in quaint livery. W. Irving.

Syn. -- Quaint, Odd, Antique. Antique is applied to that which has come down from the ancients, or which is made to imitate some ancient work of art. Odd implies disharmony, incongruity, or unevenness. An odd thing or person is an exception to general rules of calculation and procedure, or expectation and common experience. In the current use of quaint, the two ideas of odd and antique are combined, and the word is commonly applied to that which is pleasing by reason of both these qualities. Thus, we speak of the quaint architecture of many old buildings in London; or a quaint expression, uniting at once the antique and the fanciful.


© Webster 1913.

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