Ambrose Bierce Quotes

A man is known by the company he organizes.

A person who doubts himself is like a man who would enlist in the ranks of his enemies and bear arms agains himself. He makes his failure certain by himself being the first person to be convinced of it.

A total abstainer is one who abstains from everything but abstention, and especially from inactivity in the affairs of others.

Ability is commonly found to consist mainly in a high degree of solemnity.

Abscond – to move in a mysterious way, commonly with the property of another.

Absence blots people out. We really have no absent friends.

Abstainer: a weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure.

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.

Alien – 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.

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

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

Bacchus, n.: A convenient deity invented by the ancients as an excuse for getting drunk.

Backbite. To speak of a man as you find him when he can’t find you.

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

Battle, n., A method of untying with the teeth a political knot that would not yield to the tongue.

Beauty, n: the power by which a woman charms a lover and terrifies a husband.

Belladonna, n.: In Italian a beautiful lady; in English a deadly poison. A striking example of the essential identity of the two tongues.

Bigot: One who is obstinately and zealously attached to an opinion that you do not entertain.

Bore, n. A person who talks when you wish him to listen.

Brain: an apparatus with which we think we think.

Bride: A woman with a fine prospect of happiness behind her.

Cabbage: a familiar kitchen-garden vegetable about as large and wise as a man’s head.

Calamities are of two kinds: misfortunes to ourselves, and good fortune to others.

Childhood: the period of human life intermediate between the idiocy of infancy and the folly of youth – two removes from the sin of manhood and three from the remorse of age.

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.

Compromise, n. Such an adjustment of conflicting interests as gives each adversary the satisfaction of thinking he has got what he ought not to have, and is deprived of nothing except what was justly his due.

Confidante: One entrusted by A with the secrets of B confided to herself by C.

Conservative, n: A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal who wishes to replace them with others.

Consul – in American politics, a person who having failed to secure an office from the people is given one by the Administration on condition that he leave the country.

Consult: To seek approval for a course of action already decided upon.

Convent – a place of retirement for women who wish for leisure to meditate upon the sin of idleness.

Corporation: An ingenious device for obtaining profit without individual responsibility.

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

Creditor. One of a tribe of savages dwelling beyond the Financial Straits and dreaded for their desolating incursions.

Curiosity, n. An objectionable quality of the female mind. The desire to know whether or not a woman is cursed with curiosity is one of the most active and insatiable passions of the masculine soul.

Cynic, n: a blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be.

Dawn: When men of reason go to bed.

Day, n. A period of twenty-four hours, mostly misspent.

Death is not the end. There remains the litigation over the estate.

Debt, n. An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slavedriver.

Deliberation, n.: The act of examining one’s bread to determine which side it is buttered on.

Destiny: A tyrant’s authority for crime and a fool’s excuse for failure.

Divorce: a resumption of diplomatic relations and rectification of boundaries.

Dog – a kind of additional or subsidiary Deity designed to catch the overflow and surplus of the world’s worship.

Doubt begins only at the last frontiers of what is possible.

Doubt is the father of invention.

Doubt, indulged and cherished, is in danger of becoming denial; but if honest, and bent on thorough investigation, it may soon lead to full establishment of the truth.

Duty – that which sternly impels us in the direction of profit, along the line of desire.

Edible – good to eat and wholesome to digest, as a worm to a toad, a toad to a snake, a snake to a pig, a pig to a man, and a man to a worm.

Edible, adj.: Good to eat, and wholesome to digest, as a worm to a toad, a toad to a snake, a snake to a pig, a pig to a man, and a man to a worm.

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

Egotism, n: Doing the New York Times crossword puzzle with a pen.

Egotist: a person more interested in himself than in me.

Eloquence, n. The art of orally persuading fools that white is the color that it appears to be. It includes the gift of making any color appear white.

Enthusiasm – a distemper of youth, curable by small doses of repentance in connection with outward applications of experience.

Erudition – dust shaken out of a book into an empty skull.

Eulogy. Praise of a person who has either the advantages of wealth and power, or the consideration to be dead.

Experience – the wisdom that enables us to recognise in an undesirable old acquaintance the folly that we have already embraced.

Experience is a revelation in the light of which we renounce our errors of youth for those of age.

Faith: Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.

Famous, adj.: Conspicuously miserable.

Fidelity – a virtue peculiar to those who are about to be betrayed.

Forgetfulness – a gift of God bestowed upon debtors in compensation for their destitution of conscience.

Fork: An instrument used chiefly for the purpose of putting dead animals into the mouth.

Friendless. Having no favors to bestow. Destitute of fortune. Addicted to utterance of truth and common sense.

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

Genealogy, n. An account of one’s descent from a man who did not particularly care to trace his own.

Genius – to know without having learned; to draw just conclusions from unknown premises; to discern the soul of things.

Happiness: an agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another.

Heaven lies about us in our infancy and the world begins lying about us pretty soon afterward.

Historian – a broad-gauge gossip.

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

I believe we shall come to care about people less and less. The more people one knows the easier it becomes to replace them. It’s one of the curses of London.

I never said all Democrats were saloonkeepers. What I said was that all saloonkeepers are Democrats.

Immortality: A toy which people cry for, And on their knees apply for, Dispute, contend and lie for, And if allowed Would be right proud Eternally to die for.

Impartial – unable to perceive any promise of personal advantage from espousing either side of a controversy.

Impiety. Your irreverence toward my deity.

In our civilization, and under our republican form of government, intelligence is so highly honored that it is rewarded by exemption from the cares of office.

Incompatibility. In matrimony a similarity of tastes, particularly the taste for domination.

Insurance – an ingenious modern game of chance in which the player is permitted to enjoy the comfortable conviction that he is beating the man who keeps the table.

Inventor: A person who makes an ingenious arrangement of wheels, levers and springs, and believes it civilization.

Irreligion – the principal one of the great faiths of the world.

It is evident that skepticism, while it makes no actual change in man, always makes him feel better.

Jealous, adj. Unduly concerned about the preservation of that which can be lost only if not worth keeping.

Land: A part of the earth’s surface, considered as property. The theory that land is property subject to private ownership and control is the foundation of modern society, and is eminently worthy of the superstructure.

Lawsuit: A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage.

Laziness. Unwarranted repose of manner in a person of low degree.

Learning, n. The kind of ignorance distinguishing the studious.

Liberty: One of Imagination’s most precious possessions.

Life – a spiritual pickle preserving the body from decay.

Litigant. A person about to give up his skin for the hope of retaining his bones.

Litigation: A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage.

Logic: The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding.

Love: A temporary insanity curable by marriage.

Mad, adj. Affected with a high degree of intellectual independence.

Marriage, n: the state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress, and two slaves, making in all, two.

Mayonnaise: One of the sauces which serve the French in place of a state religion.

Meekness: Uncommon patience in planning a revenge that is worth while.

Men become civilized, not in proportion to their willingness to believe, but in proportion to their readiness to doubt.

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

Optimism – the doctrine or belief that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly.

Painting, n.: The art of protecting flat surfaces from the weather, and exposing them to the critic.

Patience, n. A minor form of dispair, disguised as a virtue.

Patriotism. Combustible rubbish ready to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name.

Perseverance – a lowly virtue whereby mediocrity achieves an inglorious success.

Philosophy: A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.

Photograph: a picture painted by the sun without instruction in art.

Politeness, n: The most acceptable hypocrisy.

Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.

Positive, adj.: Mistaken at the top of one’s voice.

Pray: To ask the laws of the universe to be annulled on behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.

Prejudice – a vagrant opinion without visible means of support.

Prescription: A physician’s guess at what will best prolong the situation with least harm to the patient.

Present, n. That part of eternity dividing the domain of disappointment from the realm of hope.

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

Religion. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.

Revolution, n. In politics, an abrupt change in the form of misgovernment.

Rum, n. Generically, fiery liquors that produce madness in total abstainers.

Sabbath – a weekly festival having its origin in the fact that God made the world in six days and was arrested on the seventh.

Saint: A dead sinner revised and edited.

Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.

Spring beckons! All things to the call respond; the trees are leaving and cashiers abscond.

Success is the one unpardonable sin against our fellows.

Suffrage, noun. Expression of opinion by means of a ballot. The right of suffrage (which is held to be both a privilege and a duty) means, as commonly interpreted, the right to vote for the man of another man’s choice, and is highly prized.

Sweater, n.: garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly.

Telephone, n. An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance.

The best thing to do with the best things in life is to give them up.

The covers of this book are too far apart.

The gambling known as business looks with austere disfavor upon the business known as gambling.

The hardest tumble a man can make is to fall over his own bluff.

The slightest acquaintance with history shows that powerful republics are the most warlike and unscrupulous of nations.

The small part of ignorance that we arrange and classify we give the name of knowledge.

There are four kinds of Homicide: felonious, excusable, justifiable, and praiseworthy.

To apologize is to lay the foundation for a future offense.

To be positive is to be mistaken at the top of one’s voice.

Trial. A formal inquiry designed to prove and put upon record the blameless characters of judges, advocates and jurors.

Vote: the instrument and symbol of a freeman’s power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.

War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.

We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run over.

We submit to the majority because we have to. But we are not compelled to call our attitude of subjection a posture of respect.

What is a democrat? One who believes that the republicans have ruined the country. What is a republican? One who believes that the democrats would ruin the country.

What this country needs what every country needs occasionally is a good hard bloody war to revive the vice of patriotism on which its existence as a nation depends.

When you doubt, abstain.

Who never doubted, never half believed. Where doubt is, there truth is – it is her shadow.

Wit – the salt with which the American humorist spoils his intellectual cookery by leaving it out.

Witticism. A sharp and clever remark, usually quoted and seldom noted; what the Philistine is pleased to call a joke.

Women in love are less ashamed than men. They have less to be ashamed of.