Attention: open in a new window. E-mail

Ambrose Gwinett Bierce (June 24th 1842—1914)
American editorialist, journalist, short-story writer and satirist.
"Today, he is best known for his short story, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
and his satirical dictionary, The Devil's Dictionary."


Laughter -- An interior convulsion, producing a distortion of the features and accompanied by inarticulate noises. It is infectious and, though intermittent, incurable.

This ONLY is denied God: The power to undo the past.

Acquaintance: a degree of friendship called slight when its object is poor or obscure, and intimate when he is rich or famous.

Age. That period of life in which we compound for the vices that remain by reviling those we have no longer the vigor to commit.

A funeral is a pageant whereby we attest our respect for the dead by enriching the undertaker.

An optimist is a proponent of the doctrine that black is white.

Politeness -- The most acceptable hypocrisy.

Nominee. A modest gentleman shrinking from the distinction of private life and diligently seeking the honorable obscurity of public office.

They say that hens do cackle loudest when there is nothing vital in the eggs they have laid.

An accident is an inevitable occurrence due to the actions of immutable natural laws.

Philanthropist. A rich (and usually bald) old gentleman who has trained himself to grin while his conscience is picking his pocket.

A coward is one who in a perilous emergency thinks with his legs.

Take not God's name in vain; select a time when it will have effect.

Physician -- One upon whom we set our hopes when ill and our dogs when well.

Don't steal; thou it never thus compete successfully in business. Cheat.

Before undergoing a surgical operation, arrange your temporal affairs. You may live.

When in Rome, do as Rome does.

The Senate is a body of old men charged with high duties and misdemeanors.

A prejudice is a vagrant opinion without visible means of support

The world has suffered more from the ravages of ill-advised marriages than from virginity.

LOVE, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage or by removal of the patient from the influences under which he incurred the disorder... It is sometimes fatal, but more frequently to the physician than to the patient.

Miss: A title with which we brand unmarried women to indicate that they are in the market. Miss, Misses (Mrs.) and Mister (Mr.) are the three most distinctly disagreeable words in the language, in sound and sense. Two are corruptions of Mistress, the other of Master. If we must have them, let us be consistent and give one to the unmarried man. I venture to suggest Mush, abbreviated to MH.

In each human heart are a tiger, a pig, an ass and a nightingale. Diversity of character is due to their unequal activity.

Knowledge is the small part of ignorance that we arrange and classify.

Embalm, v.: To cheat vegetation by locking up the gases upon which it feeds. By embalming their dead and thereby deranging the natural balance between animal and vegetable life, the Egyptians made their once fertile and populous country barren and incapable of supporting more than a meagre crew. The modern metallic burial casket is a step in the same direction, and many a dead man who ought now to be ornamenting his neighbor's lawn as a tree, or enriching his table as a bunch of radishes, is doomed to a long inutility. We shall get him after awhile if we are spared, but in the meantime the violet and the rose are languishing for a nibble at his glutaeus maximus.

Absurdity, n.: A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one's own opinion.

Academe, n.: An ancient school where morality and philosophy were taught. Academy, n.: A modern school where football is taught.

Acquaintance. A person whom we know well enough to borrow from, but not well enough to lend to.

Admiral. That part of a warship which does the talking while the figurehead does the thinking.

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

- an American sovereign in his probationary state.

All are lunatics, but he who can analyze his delusions is called a philosopher.

Alliance - in international politics, the union of two thieves who have their hands so deeply inserted in each other's pockets that they cannot separately plunder a third.

Ambidextrous, adj.: Able to pick with equal skill a right-hand pocket or a left.

Ambition. An overmastering desire to be vilified by enemies while living and made ridiculous by friends when dead.

AMNESTY, n. The state's magnanimity to those offenders whom it would be too expensive to punish.

An egotist is a person of low taste - more interested in himself than in me.

Anoint, v.: To grease a king or other great functionary already sufficiently slippery.

One who drafts a plan of your house, and plans a draft of your money.

Ardor, n. The quality that distinguishes love without knowledge.