Quid pro quo is Latin, literally “something for something, one thing for another.”
As we use it today, it means a favor or advantage granted or expected in return for something, or an exchange of goods or services, in which one transfer is contingent upon the other. For example, “The pardon was a quid pro quo for their help in releasing hostages.”
Phrases with similar meanings are: “a favor for a favor,” “tit for tat,” “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours,” and “one good turn deserves another.” Money may be involved, as when you pay for concert tickets, for example, or the transaction may be barter.
In the 1530s, for English speakers, the term referred to substituting one medicine for another. You could go to an apothecary to get medicine and, if he didn’t have it, he’d give you a quid pro quo — a substitute. By 1654, though, the expression was generally used to refer to something done for personal gain or with the expectation of reciprocity. It is now used, in legal and diplomatic contexts, to describe an exchange of equally valued goods or services.
According to The Law Dictionary, a quid pro quo “is nothing more than the mutual consideration which passes between the parties to a contract, and which renders it valid and binding.” So, if everyone on both sides understands the expectation that something will be given in return for a good or service, the contract is valid. But quid pro quo hinges on transparency; all parties must understand that there’s an exchange being made.
In the US, if the exchange appears excessively one-sided, courts may question whether a quid pro quo did actually exist and the contract may be held void.
In US labor law, workplace sexual harassment can take the forms of quid pro quo when a supervisor requires sex, sexual favors, or sexual contact from an employee/job candidate as a condition of their employment.
According to Wikipedia, quid pro quo has been frequently mentioned during the impeachment inquiry into US president Donald Trump, in reference to his request for an investigation of Hunter Biden as a precondition for the delivery of congressionally authorized military aid during a call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.
In my quiet little part of the world, quid pro quo usually means, “I’ll buy the coffee today, if you buy it tomorrow.”
And thanks to Charlotte for suggesting this one.