Ambrose Bierce Quotations

I’ve been collecting quotations for years and figured I’d put my collections online for others to use as they wish. Enjoy these quotations, use the comment form to share any quotations by Ambrose Bierce you don’t find here.

Note: I’ve got quite a bit of The Devil’s Dictionary included here.

More on Ambrose Bierce: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambrose_Bierce.

A bird in the hand is worth what it will bring.
– Ambrose Bierce

A cynic is a blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, and not as they ought to be.
– Ambrose Bierce

A cynic is one who never sees a good quality in a man, and never fails to see a bad one. He is the human owl, vigilant in darkness, and blind to light, mousing for vermin, and never seeing noble game.
– Ambrose Bierce

A man is known by the company that he organizes.
– Ambrose Bierce

A penny saved is a penny to squander.
– Ambrose Bierce

Prejudice, n. A vagrant opinion without visible means of support.
– Ambrose Bierce

Prehistoric, adj. Belonging to an early period and a museum. Antedating the art and practice of perpetuating falsehood.
– Ambrose Bierce

Quoting, n. The act of repeating erroneously the words of another.
– Ambrose Bierce

Specialist, n. One who knows everything about something and nothing about anything else.
– Ambrose Bierce

Absurdity, n. A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one’s own opinion.
– Ambrose Bierce

Acquaintance, n. A degree of friendship called slight when its object is poor or obscure, and intimate when he is rich or famous.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Friendless, adj. Having no favors to bestow. Destitute of fortune. Addicted to utterance of truth and common sense.
– Ambrose Bierce

Admiral, n. That part of a war-ship which does the talking while the figurehead does the thinking.
– Ambrose Bierce

War, n. A by-product of the arts of peace. The most menacing political condition is a period of international amity…
– Ambrose Bierce

War loves to come like a thief in the night; professions of eternal amity provide the night.
– Ambrose Bierce

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.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Oratory, n. A conspiracy between speech and action to cheat the understanding. A tyranny tempered by stenography.
– Ambrose Bierce

Advice: the smallest current coin.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Age–that period of life in which we compound for the vices that we still cherish by reviling those that we no longer have the enterprise to commit.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Architect, n. One who drafts a plan of your house, and plans a draft of your money.
– Ambrose Bierce

Arena, n. In politics, an imaginary rat-pit in which the statesman wrestles with his record.
– Ambrose Bierce

Armor, n. The kind of clothing worn by a man whose tailor is a blacksmith.
– Ambrose Bierce

Auctioneer, n. The man who proclaims with a hammer that he has picked a pocket with his tongue.
– Ambrose Bierce

Backbite, v.t. To speak of a man as you find him when he can’t find you.
– Ambrose Bierce

Back, n. That part of your friend which it is your privilege to contemplate in your adversity.
– Ambrose Bierce

Bait, n. A preparation that renders the hook more palatable. The best kind is beauty.
– Ambrose Bierce

Beauty in women and distinction in men are alike in this: they seem to the unthinking a kind of credibility.
– Ambrose Bierce

While your friend holds you affectionately by both your hands you are safe, for you can watch both his.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Acknowledge, v.t. To confess. Acknowledgment of one another’s faults is the highest duty imposed by our love of truth.
– Ambrose Bierce

Adder, n. A species of snake. So called from its habit of adding funeral outlays to the other expenses of living.
– Ambrose Bierce

Funeral, n. A pageant whereby we attest our respect for the dead by enriching the undertaker, and strengthen our grief by an expenditure that deepens our groans and doubles our tears.
– Ambrose Bierce

Generous, adj. Originally this word meant noble by birth and was rightly applied to a great multitude of persons. It now means noble by nature and is taking a bit of a rest.
– Ambrose Bierce

Grammar, n. A system of pitfalls thoughtfully prepared for the feet of the self-made man, along the path by which he advances to distinction.
– Ambrose Bierce

Adherent, n. A follower who had not yet obtained all that he expects to get.
– Ambrose Bierce

Beauty, n. The power by which a woman charms a lover and terrifies a husband.
– Ambrose Bierce

Bigamy, n. A mistake in taste for which the wisdom of the future will adjudge punishment called trigamy.
– Ambrose Bierce

Bigot, n. One who is obstinately and zealously attached to an opinion that you do not entertain.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Talk, v.t. To commit an indiscretion without temptation, from an impulse without purpose.
– Ambrose Bierce

Bride, n. A woman with a fine prospect of happiness behind her.
– Ambrose Bierce

Cabbage, n. A familiar kitchen-garden vegetable about as large and wise as a man’s head.
– Ambrose Bierce

Calamities are of two kinds. Misfortune to ourselves, and good fortune to others.
– Ambrose Bierce

Callous, adj. Gifted with great fortitude to bear the evils afflicting another.
– Ambrose Bierce

Cannibal, n. A gastronome of the old school who preserves the simple tastes and adheres to the natural diet of the pre-pork period.
– Ambrose Bierce

Cannon, n. An instrument employed in the rectification of national boundaries.
– Ambrose Bierce

Childhood, n. 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.
– Ambrose Bierce

Christian: one who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbors. One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.
– Ambrose Bierce

Clergyman, n. A man who undertakes the management of our spiritual affairs as a method of bettering his temporal ones.
– Ambrose Bierce

Miracle, n. An act or event out of the order of nature and unaccountable, as beating a normal hand of four kings and an ace with four aces and a king.
– Ambrose Bierce

Piety, n. Reverence for the Supreme Being, based upon his supposed resemblance to man.
– Ambrose Bierce

The pig is taught by sermons and epistles
– Ambrose Bierce

To think the God of Swine has snout and bristles.
– Ambrose Bierce

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.
– Ambrose Bierce

Clarionet, n. An instrument of torture operated by a person with cotton in his ears. There are two instruments that are worse than a clarionet – two clarionets.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Commendation, n. The tribute that we pay to achievements that resembles, but do not equal, our own.
– Ambrose Bierce

Achievement, n. The death of endeavor and the birth of disgust.
– Ambrose Bierce

Birth, n. The first and direst of all disasters.
– Ambrose Bierce

Brandy, n. A cordial composed of one part thunder-and-lightning, one part remorse, two parts bloody murder, one part death-hell-and-the-grave and four parts clarified Satan.
– Ambrose Bierce

Brandy is said by Dr. Johnson to be the drink of heroes. Only a hero will venture to drink it.
– Ambrose Bierce

Carnivorous, adj. Addicted to the cruelty of devouring the timorous vegetarian, his heirs and assigns.
– Ambrose Bierce

Centaur, n. One of a race of persons who lived before the division of labor had been carried to such a pitch of differentiation…
– Ambrose Bierce

Commerce, n. A kind of transaction in which A plunders from B the goods of C, and for compensation B picks the pocket of D of money belonging to E.
– Ambrose Bierce

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.
– Ambrose Bierce

Congress, n. A body of men who meet to repeal laws.
– Ambrose Bierce

Connoisseur, n. A specialist who knows everything about something and nothing about anything else.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Consolation, n. The knowledge that a better man is more unfortunate than yourself.
– Ambrose Bierce

Consult, v. i. To seek another’s disapproval of a course already decided on.
– Ambrose Bierce

Consul, n. 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.
– Ambrose Bierce

We know better the needs of ourselves than of others. To serve oneself is economy of administration.
– Ambrose Bierce

There are three sexes; males, females and girls.
– Ambrose Bierce

Corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Crayfish, n. A small crustacean very much resembling the lobster, but less indigestible.
– Ambrose Bierce

Creditor, n. One of a tribe of savages dwelling beyond the Financial Straits and dreaded for their desolating incursions.
– Ambrose Bierce

Critic, n. A person who boasts himself hard to please because nobody tries to please him.
– Ambrose Bierce

Debauchee, n. One who has so earnestly pursued pleasure that he has had the misfortune to overtake it.
– Ambrose Bierce

Daring, n. One of the most conspicuous qualities of a man in security.
– Ambrose Bierce

Debt, n. An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slave- driver.
– Ambrose Bierce

Delegation, n. In American politics, an article of merchandise that comes in sets.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Deluge, n. A notable first experiment in baptism which washed away the sins (and sinners) of the world.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Destiny, n. A tyrant’s authority for crime and fool’s excuse for failure.
– Ambrose Bierce

Diagnosis, n. A physician’s forecast of the disease by the patient’s pulse and purse.
– Ambrose Bierce

Dictionary, n. A malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic. This dictionary, however, is a most useful work.
– Ambrose Bierce

Disobedience, n. The silver lining to the cloud of servitude.
– Ambrose Bierce

Diplomacy, n. The patriotic art of lying for one’s country.
– Ambrose Bierce

Divorce, n. A resumption of diplomatic relations and rectification of boundaries.
– Ambrose Bierce

A divorce is a bugle blast that separates the combatants and makes them fight at long range.
– Ambrose Bierce

Distress, n. A disease incurred by exposure to the prosperity of a friend.
– Ambrose Bierce

Eat, v.i. To perform successively (and successfully) the functions of mastication, humectation, and deglutition.
– Ambrose Bierce

Eccentricity, n. A method of distinction so cheap that fools employ it to accentuate their incapacity.
– Ambrose Bierce

Economy, n. Purchasing the barrel of whiskey that you do not need for the price of the cow that you cannot afford.
– Ambrose Bierce

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.
– Ambrose Bierce

Education is that which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.
– Ambrose Bierce

Understanding, n. A cerebral secretion that enables one having it to know a house from a horse by the roof on the house. Its nature and laws have been exhaustively expounded by Locke, who rode a house, and Kant, who lived in a horse.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Emotion, n. A prostrating disease caused by a determination of the heart to the head. It is sometimes accompanied by a copious discharge of hydrated chloride of sodium from the eyes.
– Ambrose Bierce

Heart, n. An automatic, muscular blood-pump. Figuratively, the seat of emotions and sentiments–a very pretty fancy which is nothing but a survival of a once universal belief. It is now known that the sentiments and emotions reside in the stomach.
– Ambrose Bierce

Enough, pro. All there is in the world if you like it.
– Ambrose Bierce

Executive, n. An officer of the Government, whose duty it is to enforce the wishes of the legislative power until such a time as the judicial department shall be pleased to pronounce them invalid and of no effect.
– Ambrose Bierce

Entertainment, n. Any kind of amusement whose inroads stop short of death by injection.
– Ambrose Bierce

Erudition, n. Dust shaken out of a book into an empty skull.
– Ambrose Bierce

Exile, n. One who serves his country by residing abroad, yet is not an ambassador.
– Ambrose Bierce

Feast, n. A festival. A religious celebration usually signalized by gluttony and drunkenness, frequently in honor of some holy person distinguished for abstemiousness.
– Ambrose Bierce

Felon, n. A person of greater enterprise than discretion, who in embracing an opportunity has formed an unfortunate attachment.
– Ambrose Bierce

Fiddle, n. An instrument to tickle human ears by friction of a horse’s tail on the entrails of a cat.
– Ambrose Bierce

Friendship, n. A ship big enough to carry two in fair weather, but only one in foul.
– Ambrose Bierce

These are the prerogatives of genius: to know without having learned; to draw just conclusions from unknown premises; to discern the soul of things.
– Ambrose Bierce

If you would be counted great among your contemporaries, be not too much greater than they.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Genealogy, n. An account of one’s descent from an ancestor who did not particularly care to trace his own.
– Ambrose Bierce

Geographer, n. A chap who can tell you offhand the difference between the outside of the world and the inside.
– Ambrose Bierce

Ghost, n. The outward and visible sign of an inward fear.
– Ambrose Bierce

Glutton, n. A person who escapes the evils of moderation by committing dyspepsia.
– Ambrose Bierce

Gout, n. A physician’s name for the rheumatism of a rich patient.
– Ambrose Bierce

Grave, n. A place in which the dead are laid to await the coming of the medical student.
– Ambrose Bierce

Guillotine, n. A machine which makes a Frenchman shrug his shoulders with good reason.
– Ambrose Bierce

Hand, n. A singular instrument worn at the end of the human arm and commonly thrust into somebody’s pocket.
– Ambrose Bierce

Happiness, n. An agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another.
– Ambrose Bierce

Hearse, n. Death’s baby-carriage.
– Ambrose Bierce

Heaven, n. A place where the wicked cease from troubling you with talk of their personal affairs, and the good listen with attention while you expound your own.
– Ambrose Bierce

Hebrew, n. A male Jew, as distinguished from the Shebrew, an altogether superior creation.
– Ambrose Bierce

Helpmate, n. A wife, or bitter half.
– Ambrose Bierce

Fib, n. A lie that has not cut its teeth. An habitual liar’s nearest approach to truth: the perigree of his eccentric orbit.
– Ambrose Bierce

Homoeopathist, n. The humorist of the medical profession.
– Ambrose Bierce

Hurry, n. The dispatch of bunglers.
– Ambrose Bierce

Hypocrite, n. One who, professing virtues that he does not respect, secures the advantage of seeming to be what he despises.
– Ambrose Bierce

Forgetfulness, n. A gift of God bestowed upon debtors in compensation for their destitution of conscience.
– Ambrose Bierce

Air, n. A nutritious substance supplied by a bountiful Providence for the fattening of the poor.
– Ambrose Bierce

Alliance, n. In international politics, the union of two thieves who have their hands so deeply inserted in each other’s pocket that they cannot separately plunder a third.
– Ambrose Bierce

Alone, adj. In bad company.
– Ambrose Bierce

Appetite, n. An instinct thoughtfully implanted by Providence as a solution to the labor question.
– Ambrose Bierce

Historian, n. A broad-gauge gossip.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Hope, n. Desire and expectation rolled into one.
– Ambrose Bierce

Hospitality, n. The virtue which induces us to feed and lodge certain persons who are not in need of food and lodging.
– Ambrose Bierce

Houseless, adj. Having paid all taxes on household goods.
– Ambrose Bierce

House, n. A hollow edifice erected for the habitation of man, rat, mouse, beetle, cockroach, fly, mosquito, flea, bacillus and microbe.
– Ambrose Bierce

Hovel, n. The fruit of a flower called the Palace.
– Ambrose Bierce

Humanity, n. The human race, collectively, exclusive of the anthropoid poets.
– Ambrose Bierce

Husband, n. One who, having dined, is charged with the care of the plate.
– Ambrose Bierce

Hypocrisy, n. Prejudice with a halo.
– Ambrose Bierce

I think I think; therefore I think I am.
– Ambrose Bierce

Idiot, n. A member of a large and powerful tribe whose influence in human affairs has always been dominant and controlling.
– Ambrose Bierce

Influence, n. In politics, a visionary quo given in exchange for a substantial quid.
– Ambrose Bierce

Jealous, adj. Unduly concerned about the preservation of that which can be lost only if not worthy of keeping.
– Ambrose Bierce

Idleness, n. A model farm where the devil experiments with seeds of new sins and promotes the growth of staple vices.
– Ambrose Bierce

Ignoramus, n. A person unacquainted with certain kinds of knowledge familiar to yourself, and having certain other kinds that you know nothing about.
– Ambrose Bierce

Imagination, n. A warehouse of facts, with poet and liar in joint ownership.
– Ambrose Bierce

Impartial, adj. Unable to perceive any promise of personal advantage from espousing either side of a controversy or adopting either of two conflicting opinions.
– Ambrose Bierce

Immodest, adj. Having a strong sense of one’s own merit, coupled with a feeble conception of worth in others.
– Ambrose Bierce

Impiety, n. Your irreverence toward my deity.
– Ambrose Bierce

Impostor n. A rival aspirant to public honors.
– Ambrose Bierce

Improvidence, n. Provision for the needs of to-day from the revenues of to-morrow.
– Ambrose Bierce

In Dr. Johnson’s famous dictionary, patriotism is defined as the last resort of the scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first.
– Ambrose Bierce

Patriotism is as fierce as a fever, pitiless as the grave, blind as a stone, and irrational as a headless hen.
– Ambrose Bierce

Famous, adj. Conspicuously miserable.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Infancy, n. The period of our lives when, according to Wordsworth, “Heaven lies about us.” The world begins lying about us pretty soon afterward.
– Ambrose Bierce

Insurance, n. 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.
– Ambrose Bierce

International arbitration may be defined as the substitution of many burning questions for a smoldering one.
– Ambrose Bierce

Interpreter, n. One who enables two persons of different languages to understand each other by repeating to each what it would have been to the interpreter’s advantage for the other to have said.
– Ambrose Bierce

Inventor, n. A person who makes an ingenious arrangement of wheels, levers and springs, and believes it civilization.
– Ambrose Bierce

It has been observed that one’s nose is never so happy as when it is thrust into the affairs of another, from which some physiologists have drawn the inference that the nose is devoid of the sense of smell.
– Ambrose Bierce

Justice, n. A commodity which is a more or less adulterated condition the State sells to the citizen as a reward for his allegiance, taxes and personal service.
– Ambrose Bierce

Kindness, n. A brief preface to ten volumes of exaction.
– Ambrose Bierce

Lap, n. One of the most important organs of the female system–an admirable provision of nature for the repose of infancy, but chiefly useful in rural festivities to support plates of cold chicken and heads of adult males.
– Ambrose Bierce

Male, n. A member of the unconsidered, or negligible sex. The male of the human race is commonly known (to the female) as Mere Man.
– Ambrose Bierce

Meekness, n. Uncommon patience in planning a revenge that is worth while.
– Ambrose Bierce

Mercy, n. An attribute beloved of detected offenders.
– Ambrose Bierce

Metropolis, n. A stronghold of provincialism.
– Ambrose Bierce

Misdemeanor, n. An infraction of the law having less dignity than a felony and constituting no claim to admittance into the best criminal society.
– Ambrose Bierce

Kilt, n. A costume sometimes worn by Scotchmen in America and Americans in Scotland.
– Ambrose Bierce

King, n. A male person commonly known in America as a “crowned head,” although he never wears a crown and has usually no head to speak of.
– Ambrose Bierce

Kleptomaniac, n. A rich thief.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Labor, n. One of the processes by which A acquires property for B.
– Ambrose Bierce

Language, n. The music with which we charm the serpents guarding another’s treasure.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Lawyer, n. One skilled in circumvention of the law.
– Ambrose Bierce

Learning, n. The kind of ignorance distinguishing the studious.
– Ambrose Bierce

Legacy, n. A gift from one who is legging it out of this vale of tears.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Faith, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks, without knowledge, of things without parallel.
– Ambrose Bierce

Liberty, n. One of Imagination’s most precious possessions.
– Ambrose Bierce

Liberty. The distinction between freedom and liberty is not accurately known; naturalists have never been able to find a living specimen of either.
– Ambrose Bierce

Life, n. A spiritual pickle preserving the body from decay. We live in daily apprehension of its loss; yet when lost it is not missed.
– Ambrose Bierce

Lighthouse, n. A tall building on the seashore in which the government maintains a lamp and the friend of a politician.
– Ambrose Bierce

Litigant, n. A person about to give up his skin for the hope of retaining his bones.
– Ambrose Bierce

Litigation, n. A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage.
– Ambrose Bierce

Oath, n. In law, a solemn appeal to the Deity, made binding upon the conscience by a penalty for perjury.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Love is a delightful day’s journey. At the farther end kiss your companion and say farewell.
– Ambrose Bierce

They stood before the altar and supplied
– Ambrose Bierce

The fire themselves in which their fat was fried.
– Ambrose Bierce

Logic, n. The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding.
– Ambrose Bierce

Love, n. A temporary insanity cured by marriage.
– Ambrose Bierce

Low-bred, adj. “Raised” instead of brought up.
– Ambrose Bierce

Luminary, n. One who throws light upon a subject; as an editor by not writing about it.
– Ambrose Bierce

Mad, adj. Affected with a high degree of intellectual independence; not conforming to standards of thought, speech and action derived by the conformants from study of themselves; at odds with the majority; in short, unusual.
– Ambrose Bierce

Magic, n. An art of converting superstition into coin. There are other arts serving the same high purpose, but the discreet lexicographer does not name them.
– Ambrose Bierce

Magpie, n. A bird whose thievish disposition suggested to someone that it might be taught to talk.
– Ambrose Bierce

Man, n. An animal so lost in rapturous contemplation of what he thinks he is as to overlook what he indubitably ought to be.
– Ambrose Bierce

[Man’s] chief occupation is extermination of other animals and his own species, which, however, multiplies with such insistent rapidity as to infest the whole habitable earth and Canada.
– Ambrose Bierce

Marriage, n. The state of condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all, two.
– Ambrose Bierce

Widow, n. A pathetic figure that the Christian world has agreed to take humorously, although Christ’s tenderness toward widows was one of the most marked features of His character.
– Ambrose Bierce

Medicine, n. A stone flung down the Bowery to kill a dog in Broadway.
– Ambrose Bierce

Dog, n. A kind of additional or subsidiary Deity designed to catch the overflow and surplus of the world’s worship.
– Ambrose Bierce

Dullard, n. A member of the reigning dynasty in letters and life. The Dullards came in with Adam, and being both numerous and sturdy have overrun the habitable world.
– Ambrose Bierce

Martyr, n. One who moves along the line of least reluctance to a desired death.
– Ambrose Bierce

Mayonnaise, n. One of the sauces which serve the French in place of a state religion.
– Ambrose Bierce

Merchant, n. One engaged in a commercial pursuit. A commercial pursuit is one in which the thing pursued is a dollar.
– Ambrose Bierce

Mind, n. A mysterious form of matter secreted by the brain. Its chief activity consists in the endeavor to ascertain its own nature, the futility of the attempt being due to the fact that it has nothing but itself to know itself with.
– Ambrose Bierce

My country, ’tis of thee Sweet land of felony Of thee I sing– Land where my father fried Young witches and applied Whips to the Quaker’s hide And made him spring.
– Ambrose Bierce

Misfortune, n. The kind of fortune that never misses.
– Ambrose Bierce

Absolute, adj. Independent, irresponsible. An absolute monarchy is one in which the sovereign does as he pleases so long as he pleases the assassins.
– Ambrose Bierce

Money, n. A blessing that is of no advantage to us excepting when we part with it. An evidence of culture and a passport to polite society. Supportable property.
– Ambrose Bierce

Monkey, n. An arboreal animal which makes itself at home in genealogical trees.
– Ambrose Bierce

Monument, n. A structure intended to commemorate something which either needs no commemoration or cannot be commemorated.
– Ambrose Bierce

Mythology, n. the body of a primitive people’s beliefs concerning its origin, early history, heroes, deities and so forth, as distinguished from the true accounts which it invents later.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Nepotism, n. Appointing your grandmother to office for the good of the party.
– Ambrose Bierce

Noise, n. A stench in the ear. Undomesticated music. The chief product and authenticating sign of civilization.
– Ambrose Bierce

Observatory, n. A place where astronomers conjecture away the guesses of their predecessors.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Omen, n. A sign that something will happen if nothing happens.
– Ambrose Bierce

One who is in a perilous emergency thinks with his legs.
– Ambrose Bierce

Optimist, n. A proponent of the doctrine that black is white.
– Ambrose Bierce

Positivism, n. A philosophy that denies our knowledge of the Real and affirms our ignorance of the Apparent.
– Ambrose Bierce

Orthodox, n. An ox wearing the popular religious joke.
– Ambrose Bierce

Our vocabulary is defective; we give the same name to woman’s lack of temptation and man’s lack of opportunity.
– Ambrose Bierce

Pain, n. An uncomfortable frame of mind that may have a physical basis in something that is being done to the body, or may be purely mental, caused by the good fortune of another.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Formerly, painting and sculpture were combined in the same work: the ancients painted their statues. The only present alliance between the two arts is that the modern painter chisels his patrons.
– Ambrose Bierce

Pandemonium, n. Literally, the Place of All the Demons. Most of them have escaped into politics and finance, and the place is now used as a lecture hall by the Audible Reformer.
– Ambrose Bierce

Pardon, v. To remit a penalty and restore to a life of crime.
– Ambrose Bierce

Passport, n. A document treacherously inflicted upon a citizen going abroad, exposing him as an alien and pointing him out for special reprobation and outrage.
– Ambrose Bierce

Past, n. That part of Eternity with some small fraction of which we have a slight and regrettable acquaintance.
– Ambrose Bierce

Alien, n. An American sovereign in his probationary state.
– Ambrose Bierce

Patience, n. A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.
– Ambrose Bierce

Patriot, n. One to whom the interests of a part seem superior to those of the whole. The dupe of statesmen and the tool of conquerors.
– Ambrose Bierce

Patriotism, n. Combustible rubbish ready to the torch of anyone ambitious to illuminate his name.
– Ambrose Bierce

In Dr. Johnson’s famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first.
– Ambrose Bierce

Un-American, adj. Wicked, intolerable, heathenish.
– Ambrose Bierce

Penitent, adj. Undergoing or awaiting punishment.
– Ambrose Bierce

Pessimism, n. A philosophy forced upon the convictions of the observer by the disheartening prevalence of the optimist with his scarecrow hope and his unsightly smile.
– Ambrose Bierce

Peace, n. In international affairs, a period of cheating between two periods of fighting.
– Ambrose Bierce

Pedestrian, n. The variable (and audible) part of the roadway for an automobile.
– Ambrose Bierce

Pedigree, n. The known part of the route from an arboreal ancestor with a swim bladder to an urban descendant with a cigarette.
– Ambrose Bierce

Perseverance, n. A lowly virtue whereby mediocrity achieves an inglorious success.
– Ambrose Bierce

Success, n. The one unpardonable sin against one’s fellows.
– Ambrose Bierce

Tariff, n. A scale of taxes on imports, designed to protect the domestic producer against the greed of his consumer.
– Ambrose Bierce

Calamity, n. A more than commonly plain and unmistakable reminder that the affairs of this life are not of our own ordering.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Rich, adj. Holding in trust and subject to an accounting the property of the indolent, the incompetent, the unthrifty, the envious, and the luckless.
– Ambrose Bierce

Wine, n. Fermented grape-juice known to the Women’s Christian Union as “liquor,” sometimes as “rum.” Wine, madam, is God’s next best gift to man.
– Ambrose Bierce

The wine of Arpad Haraszthy has a bouquet all its own. It tickles and titillates the palate. It gurgles as it slips down the alimentary canal. It warms the cockles of the heart, and it burns the sensitive lining of the stomach.
– Ambrose Bierce

Philosophy, n. A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.
– Ambrose Bierce

Phonograph, n. An irritating toy that restores life to dead noises.
– Ambrose Bierce

Photograph, n. A picture painted by the sun without instruction in art.
– Ambrose Bierce

Phrenology, n. The science of picking the pocket through the scalp. It consists in locating and exploiting the organ that one is a dupe with.
– Ambrose Bierce

Physician, n. One upon whom we set our hopes when ill and our dogs when well.
– Ambrose Bierce

Piano, n. A parlor utensil for subduing the impenitent visitor. It is operated by pressing the keys of the machine and the spirits of the audience.
– Ambrose Bierce

Pygmy, n. One of a tribe of very small men found by ancient travelers
– Ambrose Bierce

in many parts of the world, but by modern in Central Africa only. The Pygmies are so called to distinguish them from the bulkier Caucasians–who are Hogmies.
– Ambrose Bierce

Picture, n. A representation in two dimensions of something wearisome in three.
– Ambrose Bierce

Pie, n. An advance agent of the reaper whose name is Indigestion.
– Ambrose Bierce

Pillory, n. A mechanical device for inflicting personal distinction– prototype of the modern newspaper conducted by persons of austere virtues and blameless lives.
– Ambrose Bierce

Piracy, n. Commerce without its folly-swaddles, just as God made it.
– Ambrose Bierce

Pitiful, adj. The state of an enemy or opponent after an imaginary encounter with oneself.
– Ambrose Bierce

Platitude, n. A thought that snores in words that smoke. The wisdom of a million fools in the diction of a dullard. A moral without a fable.
– Ambrose Bierce

Enemy, n. is a designing scoundrel who has done you some service which it is inconvenient to repay. In military affairs, a body of men actuated by the basest motives and pursuing the most iniquitous aim.
– Ambrose Bierce

Epitaph, n. An inscription on a tomb, showing that virtues acquired by death have a retroactive effect.
– Ambrose Bierce

Plan, v.t. To bother about the best method of accomplishing an accidental result.
– Ambrose Bierce

Please, v. To lay the foundation for a superstructure of imposition.
– Ambrose Bierce

Politeness, n. The most acceptable hypocrisy.
– Ambrose Bierce

Politician, n. An eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organized society is reared.
– Ambrose Bierce

Politics, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.
– Ambrose Bierce

Positive, adj. Mistaken at the top of one’s voice.
– Ambrose Bierce

Pre-existence, n. An unnoted factor in creation.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Prescription, n. A physician’s guess at what will best prolong the situation with least harm to the patient.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Presentable, adj. Hideously appareled after the manner of the time and place.
– Ambrose Bierce

Presidency, n. The greased pig in the field game of American politics.
– Ambrose Bierce

Price, n. Value, plus a reasonable sum for the wear and tear of conscience in demanding it.
– Ambrose Bierce

Proboscis, n. The rudimentary organ of an elephant which serves him in place of the knife-and-fork that Evolution has as yet denied him. For purposes of humor it is popularly called a trunk.
– Ambrose Bierce

Prospect, n. An outlook, usually forbidding. An expectation, usually forbidden.
– Ambrose Bierce

Push, n. One of the two things mainly conducive to success, especially in politics. The other is Pull.
– Ambrose Bierce

Queen, n. A woman by whom the realm is ruled when there is a king, and through whom it is ruled when there is not.
– Ambrose Bierce

A woman absent is a woman dead.
– Ambrose Bierce

Quill, n. An implement of torture yielded by a goose and commonly wielded by an ass. This use of the quill is now obsolete, but its modern equivalent, the steel pen, is wielded by the same everlasting Presence.
– Ambrose Bierce

Quiver, n. A portable sheath in which the ancient statesman and the aboriginal lawyer carried their lighter arguments.
– Ambrose Bierce

Quotient, n. A number showing how many times a sum of money belonging to one person is contained in the pocket of another – usually about as many times as it can be got there.
– Ambrose Bierce

Radicalism, n. The conservatism of to-morrow injected into the affairs of to-day.
– Ambrose Bierce

Ramshackle, adj. Pertaining to a certain order of architecture, otherwise know as the Normal American.
– Ambrose Bierce

Rash, adj. Insensible to the value of our advice.
– Ambrose Bierce

Rascal, n. A fool considered under another aspect.
– Ambrose Bierce

Fool, n. A person who pervades the domain of intellectual speculation and diffuses himself through the channels of moral activity. He is omnific, omniform, omnipercipient, omniscient, omnipotent…
– Ambrose Bierce

Rational, adj. Devoid of all delusions save those of observation, experience and reflection.
– Ambrose Bierce

Reality, n. The dream of a mad philosopher. That which would remain in the cupel if one should assay a phantom. The nucleus of a vacuum.
– Ambrose Bierce

“There’s no free will,” says the philosopher; “to hang is most unjust.” “There’s no free will,” assents the officer: “we hang because we must.”
– Ambrose Bierce

Rear, n. In American military matters, that exposed part of the army that is nearest to Congress.
– Ambrose Bierce

Reason, v.i. To weight probabilities in the scales of desire.
– Ambrose Bierce

Rebel, n. A proponent of a new misrule who has failed to establish it.
– Ambrose Bierce

Brahma, n. He who created the Hindoos, who are preserved by Vishnu and destroyed by Siva–a rather neater division of labor than is found among the deities of some other nations.
– Ambrose Bierce

Recollect, v. To recall with additions something not previously known.
– Ambrose Bierce

Reconsider, v. To seek a justification for a decision already made.
– Ambrose Bierce

Referendum, n. A law for submission of proposed legislation to a popular vote to learn the nonsensus of public opinion.
– Ambrose Bierce

Recreation, n. A particular kind of dejection to relieve a general fatigue.
– Ambrose Bierce

Reflection, n. An action of the mind whereby we obtain a clearer view of our relation to the things of yesterday and are able to avoid the perils that we shall not again encounter.
– Ambrose Bierce

Yesterday, n. The infancy of youth, the youth of manhood, the entire past of age.
– Ambrose Bierce

Reform, v. A thing that mostly satisfies reformers opposed to reformation.
– Ambrose Bierce

Oppose, v. To assist with obstructions and objections.
– Ambrose Bierce

Opposition, n. In politics the party that prevents the Government from running amuck by hamstringing it.
– Ambrose Bierce

Religion, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.
– Ambrose Bierce

Reparation, n. Satisfaction that is made for a wrong and deducted from the satisfaction felt in committing it.
– Ambrose Bierce

Reporter, n. A writer who guesses his way to the truth and dispels it with a tempest of words.
– Ambrose Bierce

Representative, n. In national politics, a member of the Lower House in this world, and without discernible hope of promotion in the next.
– Ambrose Bierce

Resident, adj. Unable to leave.
– Ambrose Bierce

Resign, v.t. To renounce an honor for an advantage. To renounce an advantage for a greater advantage.
– Ambrose Bierce

Resolute, adj. Obstinate in a course that we approve.
– Ambrose Bierce

Respectability, n. The offspring of a liaison between a bald head and a bank account.
– Ambrose Bierce

Respirator, n. An apparatus fitted over the nose and mouth of an inhabitant of London, whereby to filter the visible universe in its passage to the lungs.
– Ambrose Bierce

Responsibility, n. A detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one’s neighbor. In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it upon a star.
– Ambrose Bierce

Ridicule, n. Words designed to show that the person of whom they are uttered is devoid of the dignity of character distinguishing him who utters them.
– Ambrose Bierce

Reverence, n. The spiritual attitude of a man to a god and a dog to a man.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Riot, n. A popular entertainment given to the military by innocent bystanders.
– Ambrose Bierce

Rite, n. A religious or semi-religious ceremony fixed by law, precept or custom, with the essential oil of sincerity carefully squeezed out of it.
– Ambrose Bierce

Romance, n. Fiction that owes no allegiance to the God of Things as They Are.
– Ambrose Bierce

Sabbath, n. A weekly festival having its origin in the fact that God made the world in six days and was arrested on the seventh.
– Ambrose Bierce

Road, n. A strip of land along which one may pass from where it is too tiresome to be to where it is futile to go.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Rumor, n. A favorite weapon of the assassins of character.
– Ambrose Bierce

Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited.
– Ambrose Bierce

Slang, n. The grunt of the human hog (Pignoramus intolerabilis) with an audible memory.
– Ambrose Bierce

Sauce, n. The one infallible sign of civilization and enlightenment… For every sauce invented and accepted a vice is renounced and forgiven.
– Ambrose Bierce

Scribbler, n. A professional writer whose views are antagonistic to one’s own.
– Ambrose Bierce

Scriptures, n. The sacred books of our holy religion, as distinguished from the false and profane writings on which all other faiths are based.
– Ambrose Bierce

Self-esteem, n. An erroneous appraisement.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Selfish, adj. Devoid of consideration for the selfishness of others.
– Ambrose Bierce

Senate, n. A body of elderly gentlemen charged with high duties and misdemeanors.
– Ambrose Bierce

Senator, n. The fortunate bidder in an auction of votes.
– Ambrose Bierce

Early one June morning in 1872, I murdered my father–an act which made a deep impression on me at the time.
– Ambrose Bierce

An accomplice is one associated with another in a crime, having guilty knowledge and complicity, as an attorney who defends a criminal, knowing him guilty…
– Ambrose Bierce

Habeas Corpus, n. A writ by which a man may be taken out of jail when confined for the wrong crime.
– Ambrose Bierce

Speak of the Devil and he will hear about it.
– Ambrose Bierce

Strike while your employer has a big contract.
– Ambrose Bierce

Where there’s a will there’s a won’t.
– Ambrose Bierce

Tail, n. The part of an animal’s spine that has transcended its natural limitations to set up an independent existence in a world of its own.
– Ambrose Bierce

Take, v.t. To acquire, frequently by force but preferably by stealth.
– Ambrose Bierce

“Force is but might,” the teacher said– “That definition’s just.” The boy said naught but thought instead, Remembering his pounded head: “Force is not might but must!”
– Ambrose Bierce

Freedom, n. Exemption from the stress of authority in a beggarly half dozen of restraint’s infinite multitude of methods…
– Ambrose Bierce

Beggar, n. One who has relied on the assistance of his friends.
– Ambrose Bierce

Insurrection, n. An unsuccessful revolution. Disaffection’s failure to substitute misrule for bad government.
– Ambrose Bierce

Telescope, n. A device having a relation to the eye similar to that of the telephone to the ear, enabling distant objects to plague us with a multitude of needless details.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Court Fool, n. The plaintiff.
– Ambrose Bierce

Lawful, adj. Compatible with the will of a judge having jurisdiction.
– Ambrose Bierce

The covers of this book are too far apart.
– Ambrose Bierce

The fact that boys are allowed to exist at all is evidence of a remarkable Christian forbearance among men.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Think twice before you speak to a friend in need.
– Ambrose Bierce

Tree, n. A tall vegetable intended by nature to serve as a penal apparatus, though through a miscarriage of justice most trees bear only a negligible fruit, or none at all.
– Ambrose Bierce

Trichinosis, n. The pig’s reply to proponents of porcophagy.
– Ambrose Bierce

Truthful, adj. Dumb and illiterate.
– Ambrose Bierce

Once, adv. Enough.
– Ambrose Bierce

Twice, adv. Once too often.
– Ambrose Bierce

Type, n. Pestilent bits of metal suspected of destroying civilization and enlightenment, despite their obvious agency in this incomparable dictionary.
– Ambrose Bierce

Ultimatum, n. In diplomacy, a last demand before resorting to concessions.
– Ambrose Bierce

Valor, n. A soldierly compound of vanity, duty and the gambler’s hope.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Vanity, n. The tribute of a fool to the worth of the nearest ass.
– Ambrose Bierce

Virtues, n.pl. Certain abstentions.
– Ambrose Bierce

Vote, n. The instrument and symbol of a freeman’s power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.
– Ambrose Bierce

Weather, n. The climate of the hour. A permanent topic of conversation among persons whom it does not interest, but who have inherited the tendency to chatter about it from naked arboreal ancestors whom it keenly concerned.
– Ambrose Bierce

A man is the sum of his ancestors; to reform him you must begin with a dead ape and work downward through a million graves…
– Ambrose Bierce

Wedding, n. A ceremony at which two persons undertake to become one, one undertakes to become nothing, and nothing undertakes to become supportable.
– Ambrose Bierce

What is worth doing is worth the trouble of asking somebody to do it.
– Ambrose Bierce

Wheat, n. A cereal from which a tolerably good whisky can with some difficulty be made, and which is used also for bread.
– Ambrose Bierce

When you are ill make haste to forgive your enemies, for you may recover.
– Ambrose Bierce

Wit, n. The salt with which the American humorist spoils his intellectual cookery by leaving it out.
– Ambrose Bierce

Humorist, n. A plague that would have softened down the hoar austerity of Pharaoh’s heart and persuaded him to dismiss Israel with his best wishes, cat-quick.
– Ambrose Bierce

Plague, n. In ancient times a general punishment of the innocent for admonition of their ruler, as in the familiar instance of Pharaoh the Immune.
– Ambrose Bierce

The plague as we of today have the happiness to know it is merely Nature’s fortuitous manifestation of her purposeless objectionableness.
– Ambrose Bierce

Witch, n. (1) Any ugly and repulsive old woman, in a wicked league with the devil. (2) A beautiful and attractive young woman, in wickedness a league beyond the devil.
– Ambrose Bierce

Witticism, n. A sharp and clever remark, usually quoted, and seldom noted; what the Philistine is pleased to call a “joke.”
– Ambrose Bierce

Immigrant, n. An unenlightened person who thinks one country better than another.
– Ambrose Bierce

Woman would be more charming if one could fall into her arms without falling into her hands.
– Ambrose Bierce

Women and foxes, being weak, are distinguished by superior tact.
– Ambrose Bierce

Worms’-Meat, n. The finished product of which we are the raw material.
– Ambrose Bierce

Yankee, n. In Europe, an American. In the Northern States of our Union, a New Englander. In the Southern States the word is unknown.
– Ambrose Bierce

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

Zeal, n. A certain nervous disorder afflicting the young and inexperienced.
– Ambrose Bierce

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