The Best Definitions from Ambrose Bierce’s ‘Devil’s Dictionary’

The funniest and wittiest quotes from Ambrose Bierce’s comic masterpiece, The Devil’s Dictionary

We’ve read the whole of Ambrose Bierce’s wonderful The Devil’s Dictionary and, below, have distilled the book into 25 of the very best entries in this classic lexicon. The only stipulation we set ourselves was that the quotes we selected had to be short and pithy – preferably no longer than one sentence – to ensure maximum quotability. We hope you enjoy our selection.

Admiration, n. Our polite recognition of another’s resemblance to ourselves.

Barometer, n. An ingenious instrument which indicates what kind of weather we are having.

Clairvoyant, n. A person, commonly a woman, who has the power of seeing that which is invisible to her patron – namely, that he is a blockhead.

Comfort, n. A state of mind produced by contemplation of a neighbor’s uneasiness.

Consult, v. To seek another’s approval of a course already decided on.

Coward, n. One who in a perilous emergency thinks with his legs.

Ambrose BierceDentist, n. A prestidigitator who, putting metal into your mouth, pulls coins out of your pocket.

Education, n. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.

Egotist, n. A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.

Famous, adj. Conspicuously miserable.

Future, n. That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured.

History, n. An account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools.

Lawyer, n. One skilled in circumvention of the law.

Lecturer, n. One with his hand in your pocket, his tongue in your ear and his faith in your patience.

Misfortune, n. The kind of fortune that never misses.

Neighbor, n. One whom we are commanded to love as ourselves, and who does all he knows how to make us disobedient.

November, n. The eleventh twelfth of a weariness.

Ocean, n. A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man — who has no gills.

Once, adj. Enough.

Pray, v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.

Quotation, n. The act of repeating erroneously the words of another. The words erroneously repeated.

Revelation, n. A famous book in which St. John the Divine concealed all that he knew. The revealing is done by the commentators, who know nothing.

Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited.

Self-evident, adj. Evident to one’s self and to nobody else.

Year, n. A period of three hundred and sixty-five disappointments.

If you enjoyed the best entries from Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary collected here, check out these 10 great quotes from Oscar Wilde and our selection of 10 great quotes from John Steinbeck.

Image: Ambrose Bierce, 1892 (unknown author), Wikimedia Commons.


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  6. Reblogged this on Jyoti Arora and commented:
    This is simple brilliant and super funny :)
    Do read all the definitions!

  7. Love: The folly of thinking much of another before one knows anything of oneself.

  8. Reblogged this on Silver Tongued Witch and commented:
    Clever and accurate.

  9. monkey 100 % enjoy 25 selection up there & give thanks to blogger for make presentment. simple brain of monkey also like how mr ambrose bierce define word politics: “A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.”

  10. Brilliant! Love it.

  11. Reblogged this on cavalierzee.

  12. Loved it! Thanks for sharing.

  13. ha ha ha, still smiling at these definitions!
    Thanks for sharing.

  14. I like the one for Saint.

  15. Reblogged this on Kanti Burns, Book Reviews and more ….

  16. Reblogged this on Willow's Corner and commented:
    Now I must go and read my copy (digital) of this book. It looks to be amusing.

  17. Love this so much! Thanks for sharing!

  18. So cool! I enjoyed reading them. :)

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  20. Reblogged this on Ecofeminist.

  21. Bravo! Yep, the egotistical one is brilliant.

  22. Reblogged this on newauthoronline and commented:
    Some wonderful quotes here. Among my favourites are, “Egotist, n. A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me”. and, “Lawyer, n. One skilled in circumvention of the law”.

  23. these are the best haha

  24. Reblogged this on Martha Keim-St. Louis' blog and commented:
    Very funny adaptation, not mine