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Ambrose Bierce
American journalist and short story writer
(1842 - c. 1914)



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ABSURDITY, n.: A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one's own opinion.
-- The Devil's Dictionary

ACQUAINTANCE, n.: A person whom we know well enough to borrow from, but not well enough to lend to.
-- The Devil's Dictionary

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 successfully plunder a third.
-- The Devil's Dictionary

APPLAUSE, n.: The echo of a platitude.
-- The Devil's Dictionary

BORE, n.: A person who talks when you wish him to listen.
-- The Devil's Dictionary

BRAIN, n.: An apparatus with which we think we think.
-- The Devil's Dictionary

CALAMITY, n.: Calamities are of two kinds: misfortunes to ourselves, and good fortune to others.
-- The Devil's Dictionary

CONSERVATIVE, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.
-- The Devil's Dictionary

CONSULT, v.t.: To seek another's approval of a course already decided upon.
-- The Devil's Dictionary

CORPORATION, n.: An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.
-- The Devil's Dictionary

HISTORY, n.: An account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools.
-- The Devil's Dictionary

LAWYER, n. One skilled in circumvention of the law.
-- The Devil's Dictionary

MARRIAGE, n.: The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all, two.
-- The Devil's Dictionary

POLITICS, n. Strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.
-- The Devil's Dictionary

POSITIVE, adj.: To be mistaken at the top of one's voice.
-- The Devil's Dictionary

SAINT n.: A dead sinner revised and edited.
-- The Devil's Dictionary


Further Reading

The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


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The selection of the above quotes and the writing of the accompanying notes was performed by the author David Paul Wagner.

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