We examined the morphological diversity of the quadrate bone in squamate reptiles (i.e. lizards, snakes, amphisbaenians). The quadrate is the principal splanchnocranial element involved in suspending the lower jaw from the skull, and its shape is of particular interest because it is potentially affected by several factors, such as phylogenetic history, allometry, ecology, skull kinesis and hearing capabilities (e.g. presence or absence of a tympanic ear). Due to its complexity, the quadrate bone is also considered one of the most diagnostic elements in fragmentary fossil taxa. We describe quadrates from 38 species spread across all major squamate clades, using qualitative and quantitative (e.g. geometric morphometrics) methods. We test for possible correlations between shape variation and factors such as phylogeny, size, ecology and presence/absence of a tympanum. Our results show that the shape of the quadrate is highly evolutionarily plastic, with very little of the diversity explained by phylogenetic history. Size variation (allometric scaling) is similarly unable to explain much shape diversity in the squamate quadrate. Ecology (terrestrial/fossorial/aquatic) and presence of a tympanic ear are more significant, but together explain only about 20% of the diversity observed. Other unexplored and more analytically complex factors, such as skull biomechanics, likely play additional major roles in shaping the quadrates of lizards and snakes.