AskDefine | Define quest

Dictionary Definition



1 a search for an alternative that meets cognitive criteria; "the pursuit of love"; "life is more than the pursuance of fame"; "a quest for wealth" [syn: pursuit, pursuance]
2 the act of searching for something; "a quest for diamonds" [syn: seeking]


1 make a search (for); "Things that die with their eyes open and questing"; "The animal came questing through the forest"
2 search the trail of (game); "The dog went off and quested"
3 bark with prolonged noises, of dogs [syn: bay]
4 seek alms, as for religious purposes
5 express the need or desire for; ask for; "She requested an extra bed in her room"; "She called for room service" [syn: request, bespeak, call for]

User Contributed Dictionary




  • IPA: /ˈkwɛst/
  • Rhymes: -ɛst


  1. A journey or effort in pursuit of a goal (often lengthy, ambitious, or fervent); a mission.


journey or effort in pursuit of a goal


  1. To seek or pursue a goal; to undertake a mission or job.



Compare Italian questo



Extensive Definition

This article is about the word, for other meanings see Quest (disambiguation)
A quest is a journey towards a goal used in mythology and literature as a plot. Quests can be found in the folklore of every nation. In literature, the objects of quests require great exertion on the part of the hero, and the overcoming of many obstacles, typically including much travel.
This travel also allows the storyteller to showcase exotic locations and cultures, which may, indeed, be the writer's objective if not the characters.

Quest objects

The hero's or heroine's normal aim is to obtain something, or someone, by the quest and with this object return home. The object can be something new, that fulfills a lack in his/her life, or something that was stolen away from him/ her. It can also be a lack in the life of, or something stolen from, someone with authority to dispatch him/her.
Sometimes the hero has no desire to return. Sir Galahad's quest for the Holy Grail is to find it, not return with it. A return may, indeed, be impossible: Aeneas is questing for a homeland, having lost Troy at the beginning of Virgil's Aeneid he does not return to Troy to refound it but settles in Italy, to become an ancestor of the Romans.
Even if s/he does return after the culmination of the quest, s/he may face false heroes who attempt to pass themselves off as him/her, or his initial response may be a rejection of that return, as Joseph Campbell describes in his critical analysis of quest literature "The Hero With a Thousand Faces."
If dispatched, the claim may be false, with the dispatcher actually sending him/her on the difficult quest in hopes of his/her death in the attempt, or in order to remove him/her from the scene for a time, but the story often unfolds just as if the claim were sincere, except that the tale usually ends with the dispatcher being unmasked and punished. Stories with such false quest-objects include the legends of Jason and Perseus, the fairy tales The Dancing Water, the Singing Apple, and the Speaking Bird, Go I Know Not Whither and Fetch I Know Not What, and the story of Beren and Lúthien in J. R. R. Tolkien's Silmarillion.

Literary analysis

The quest, in the form of the Hero's Journey, is central to the Monomyth described by Joseph Campbell; the hero sets forth from the world of common day into a land where adventures, tests, and magical rewards are found.

Historical Examples

An early quest story is the quest of Gilgamesh, who seeks a secret to eternal life after the tragic death of Enkidu, including the search for an emerald.
Another ancient quest tale, Homer's Odyssey, tells of Odysseus, who is cursed to wander and suffer for many years before Athena persuades the Olympians to allow him to return home. Recovering the Golden Fleece is the object of the travels of Jason and the Argonauts in the Argonautica. Psyche, having lost Cupid, hunted through the world for him, and was set tasks by Venus, including a descent into the underworld.
Many fairy tales depict the hero or heroine setting out on a quest, such as East of the Sun and West of the Moon where the heroine seeks her husband, The Seven Ravens where the heroine seeks her transformed brothers, The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was, or The Golden Bird where the prince sets out to find the golden bird for his father. Other characters may set out with no more definite aim that to seek their fortune, or even be cast out instead of voluntarily leaving, but learn of something that could aid them along the way and so have their journey transformed from aimless wandering into a quest. Other characters can also set forth on quests — the hero's two older brothers commonly do — but the hero is distinguished by his success. Many medieval romances set the knight out on quests. The term "Knight-errant" sprang from this, as "errant" meant roving or wandering. Sir Thomas Malory included many in Le Morte d'Arthur. The most famous -- perhaps the most famous quest in western literature -- centers on the Holy Grail in Arthurian legend. This story cycle recounts multiple quests, in multiple variants, telling stories both of the heroes who succeed, like Percival (in Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival) or Sir Galahad (in the Queste del Saint Graal), and also the heroes who fail, like Sir Lancelot. This often sent them into a bewildering forest. Despite many references to its pathlessness, the forest repeatedly confronts knights with forks and crossroads, of a labyrinthine complexity. The significiance of their encounters is often explained to the knights -- particularly those searching for the Holy Grail -- by hermits acting as wise old men -- or women. Still, despite their perils and chances of error, such forests, being the location where the knight can obtain the end of his quest, are places where the knights may become worthy; one romance has a maiden urging Sir Lancelot on his quest for the Holy Grail, "which quickens with life and greenness like the forest."
So consistently did knights quest that Miguel de Cervantes set his Don Quixote on mock quests in a parody of chivalric tales. His attempt to ridicule knight-errantry into non-existence was not successful; quests remain a vital part of fantasy literature to this day.

Modern Literature

Quests continued in modern literature. Many, perhaps most, stories can be described as a quest in which the main character is seeking something that he desires, but the literal structure of a journey seeking something is, itself, still common. Quests often appear in fantasy literature, as in Rasselas by Samuel Johnson, or The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion go on a quest for the way back to Kansas, brains, a heart, and courage respectively.
A familiar modern literary quest is Frodo Baggins's quest to destroy the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings. The One Ring, its baleful power, the difficult method which is the only way to destroy it, and the spiritual and psychological torture it wreaks on its Bearer, is used by J. R. R. Tolkien to tell a meaningful tale of friendship and the inner struggle with temptation, against a background of epic and supernatural warfare.
Some writers, however, may devise the arbitrary quests for items without any importance beyond being the object of the quest. These items are known as MacGuffins, which is sometimes merely used to compare quests and is not always a derogatory term. Writers may also motivate characters to pursue these objects by meanings of a prophecy that decrees it, rather than have them discover that it could assist them, for reasons that are given.

Role-playing Games

The quest is a basic plot in role-playing games.
A common quest in a role-playing game will announce that the heroes must assemble some artifact, which has been broken into several pieces, each of which has a challenge the heroes must overcome. The carefully designed quest may allow the heroes to shine and show the qualities that make them heroic.
In literature as well as video games, side-quests are often used to develop character depth and reveal the world setting. These miniature plots may or may not have to do with the story's focus (being hereafter called the main quest), such as a romantic interest or providing help to other characters. In Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, for example, the major quest is the binding or destruction of the dark one, with side quests being the securing of political power, romantic interests, and the growth of personal strength or power. Often these side quests are stepping stones to the completion of the final goal.
In the beginning of the game, the player may need to learn how to effectively play the game, and the character may lack the abilities or equipment to embark on the main quest. The game may provide side-quests that are menial in nature and have little to no bearing on the main quest, and include such actions as finding a lost book, finding a lost child, or ridding a basement of rats. Luckily, the gamer quickly passes through this level. This may also be a tutorial teaching the basics of gameplay with relatively little danger to the character in contrast to what shall cross their paths when their adventure begins. In regards to the Monomyth, the player may is unlikely to have defeated the guardian at this stage.
Another form of side quest is a distraction or minigame. This includes activities such as fishing, raising pets, roleplaying social activities, buying drinks at a bar, dancing and horseback archery.

See also


quest in Czech: Quest
quest in German: Quest
quest in Spanish: Aventura
quest in Persian: پویش
quest in Italian: Cerca
quest in Dutch: Queeste (zoektocht)
quest in Polish: Quest
quest in Ukrainian: Квест

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

adventure, angle for, ask for, bay, beat about for, cast about, chase, chivy, crusade, delve for, delving, dig for, dog, dogging, domiciliary visit, dragnet, emprise, expedition, exploration, ferret out, fish for, follow, follow up, follow-up, following, forage, frisk, give chase, go after, go gunning for, gun for, hollo after, hound, house-search, hue and cry, hunt, hunt for, hunt up, hunting, inquest, inquiry, inquisition, investigation, look, look for, look up, make after, mission, perquisition, pilgrimage, posse, probe, probing, prosecute, prosecution, prowl after, pursual, pursuance, pursue, pursuing, pursuit, quest after, raise the hunt, ransacking, research, rummage, run after, search, search for, search out, search party, search warrant, search-and-destroy operation, searching, see to, seek, seek for, seek out, seeking, shadowing, stalk, stalking, still hunt, still-hunt, take out after, track down, tracking, tracking down, trailing, try to find, turning over, ululate, wail
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1