Laughter can be an audible expression of merriment and amusement or an inward feeling of joy or pleasure, in a reaction to certain stimuli, including fundamental stresses, which serves as an emotional balancing mechanism. Instinctually, it is considered a visual expression of delight or happiness and may ensue from hearing a joke, being tickled, or experiencing unusual sensations.
- Alphabetized by author
- Without laughter life on our planet would be intolerable. So important is laughter to us that humanity highly rewards members of one of the most unusual professions on earth, those who make a living by inducing laughter in others. This is very strange if you stop to think of it: that otherwise sane and responsible citizens should devote their professional energies to causing others to make sharp, explosive barking-like exhalations.
- Steve Allen, Funny People (1981)
- I think that the tendency for most people is to fall back on a comic interpretation of things — because things are so sad, so terrible. If you didn't laugh you'd kill yourself. But the truth of the matter is that existence in general is very very tragic, very very sad, very brutal and very unhappy.
- Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God.
- Karl Barth, as quoted in The Harper Book Of Quotations (1993) edited by Robert I. Fitzhenry, p. 223
- You grow up the first day you have your first good laugh — at yourself.
- Ethel Barrymore, as quoted in 1,600 Quotes & Pieces of Wisdom That Just Might Help You Out When You're Stuck in a Moment (and Can't Get Out of It!) (2003) by Gary P. Guthrie
- Je me hâte de me moquer de tous, de peur d'être obligé d'en pleurer.
- Mirth is God's medicine. Everybody ought to bathe in it.
- Henry Ward Beecher, in Royal Truths (1869), p. 248
- That so much time was wasted in this pain.
Ten thousand years ago he might have let off down
To not return again!
A dreadful laugh at last escapes his lips;
The laughter sets him free.
A Fool lives in the Universe! he cries.
The Fool is me!
And with one final shake of laughter
Breaks his bonds.
The nails fall skittering to marble floors.
And Christ, knelt at the rail, sees miracle
As Man steps down in amiable wisdom
To give himself what no one else can give:
- Ray Bradbury, in "Christ, Old Student in a New School" (1972)
- I am the dreamer and the doer
I the hearer and the knower
I the giver and the taker
I the sword and the wound of sword.
If this be true, then let sword fall free from hand.
I embrace myself.
I laugh until I weep
And weep until I smile
- Ray Bradbury, in "Christ, Old Student in a New School" (1972)
- It is the duty of the humor of any given ppnation]] in time of high crisis to attack the catastrophe that faces it in such a manner as to cause the people to laugh at it in such a way that they cannot die before they are killed.
- Lord Buckley, "H-Bomb" (1960), a comic monologue), as quoted in "It's Comedy! From Skit To Song To Satire" in The New York Times (27 October 1989)
- And if I laugh at any mortal thing,
'Tis that I may not weep.
- No man who has once heartily and wholly laughed can be altogether irreclaimably bad.
- Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus (1833–1834), Book I, Chapter IV
- How much lies in Laughter: the cipher-key, wherewith we decipher the whole man.
- Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus (1833–1834), Book I, Chapter IV
- The most completely wasted of all days is that in which we have not laughed.
- Nicolas Chamfort, in Maximes et pensées (1805)
- Variant translations:
- The days most wasted are those during which we have not laughed.
- A day without laughter is a day wasted.
- While many such expressions have become widely attributed to Charlie Chaplin and a few others, research done for "A Day Without Laughter is a Day Wasted" at Quote Investigator indicate that such expressions date back to that of Chamfort, published in "Historique, Politique et Litteraire, Maximes détachées extraites des manuscrits de Champfort" Mercure Français (18 July 1795), p. 351 Translations of this into English have been found as early as one in "Laughing" in Flowers of Literature (1803) by F. Prevost and F. Blagdon :
- I admire the man who exclaimed, “I have lost a day!” because he had neglected to do any good in the course of it; but another has observed that “the most lost of all days, is that in which we have not laughed;” and, I must confess, that I feel myself greatly of his opinion.
- It is not funny that anything else should fall down, only that a man should fall down ... Why do we laugh? Because it is a gravely religious matter: it is the Fall of Man. Only man can be absurd: for only man can be dignified.
- G. K. Chesterton, "Spiritualism", in All Things Considered (1908)
- So much of "normal, civilized" life is bull that you can't imagine. ... What frightens you, doesn't frighten me, what frightens me, you'd laugh at.
- I'm struck by how laughter connects you with people. It's almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or any sense of social hierarchy when you're just howling with laughter. Laughter is a force for democracy.
- If I can get you to laugh with me, you like me better, which makes you more open to my ideas. And, if I can persuade you to laugh at a particular point that I make, by laughing at it you acknowledge it as true.
- John Cleese, as quoted in What Winners Do to Win! : The 7 Minutes a Day That Can Change Your Life (2003) by Nicki Joy, p. 113
- Not living in fear is a great gift, because certainly these days we do it so much. And do you know what I like about comedy? You can't laugh and be afraid at the same time — of anything. If you're laughing, I defy you to be afraid.
- He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.
- Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.
- Albert Einstein in his Essays Presented to Leo Baeck on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday (1954), p. 26
- It’s no use crying over spilt evils. It’s better to mop them up laughing.
- Eleanor Farjeon, in Gypsy and Ginger (1920)
- The highest forms of understanding we can achieve are laughter and human compassion.
- In a dream I saw Jesus and My God Pan sitting together in the heart of the forest.
They laughed at each other's speech, with the brook that ran near them, and the laughter of Jesus was the merrier. And they conversed long.
- Khalil Gibran, in Jesus, The Son of Man (1928), "Sarkis an old Greek Shepherd, called the madman: Jesus and Pan"
- Anyone who takes himself too seriously always runs the risk of looking ridiculous; anyone who can consistently laugh at himself does not.
- Vaclav Havel, Disturbing the Peace, Ch. 2 (1986)
- Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are, and what they ought to be.
- William Hazlitt, Lectures on the English Comic Writers, "Lecture I: On Wit and Humour" (1819)
- Laugh not too much; the witty man laughs least:
For wit is news only to ignorance.
Lesse at thine own things laugh; lest in the jest
Thy person share, and the conceit advance.
- George Herbert, The Temple (1633), Church Porch, Stanza 39
- You have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy.
- I have just now come from a party where I was its life and soul; witticisms streamed from my lips, everyone laughed and admired me, but I went away — yes, the dash should be as long as the radius of the earth's orbit ——————————— and wanted to shoot myself.
- Søren Kierkegaard, Journals of Søren Kierkegaard(March 1836)
- Laughter is the climax in the tragedy of seeing, hearing and smelling self-consciously.
- Wyndham Lewis, in "Inferior Religions" (1917)
- Scholars of the highest class, when they hear about the Tao, take it and practice it earnestly.
Scholars of the middle class, when they hear of it, take it half earnestly.
Scholars of the lowest class, when they hear of it, laugh at it.
Without the laughter, there would be no Tao.
- Those who don’t know how to weep with their whole heart don’t know how to laugh either.
- Creator. A comedian whose audience is afraid to laugh.
- God is a comedian, playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.
- Perhaps I know best why it is man alone who laughs; he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter.
- Seventy-three men sailed in, from the San Francisco Bay,
Rolled off of their ship and here's what they had to say.
"We're calling everyone to ride along, to another shore.
Where we can laugh our lives away and be free once more."
But no one heard them calling, no one came at all,
'Cause they were too busy watching those old raindrops fall.
- I'd like to make you laugh for about ten minutes. Though I'm gonna be on for an hour.
- Richard Pryor, reported in [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/4517750.stm "In quotes: Richard Pryor" at BBC News (11 December 2005)
- Put your prejudice aside,
For, really, there's nothing here that's outrageous,
Nothing sick, or bad — or contagious.
Not that I sit here glowing with pride
For my book: all you'll find is laughter:
That's all the glory my heart is after,
Seeing how sorrow eats you, defeats you.
I'd rather write about laughing than crying,
For laughter makes men human, and courageous.
- Pour ce que rire est le propre de l'homme.
- To laugh is proper to man.
- François Rabelais, Gargantua, Book 1, "Rabelais to the Reader" (1534)
- Now everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody Else, but when it happens to you, why it seems to lose some of its Humor, and if it keeps on happening, why the entire laughter kinder Fades out of it.
- Will Rogers, in "Warning to Jokers: Lay off the Prince", in The Illiterate Digest (1924), p. 131
- Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.
- William Saroyan, in The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze (1934), Preface
- I have always been a Laugher, disturbing people who are not laughers, upsetting whole audiences at theatres... I laugh, that's all. I love to laugh. Laugher to me is being alive. I have had rotten times, and I have laughed through them. Even in the midst of the very worst times I have laughed.
- William Saroyan, in Sons Come and Go, Mothers Hang in Forever (1976)
- With his eyes in flood with laughter.
- O, you shall see him laugh till his face be like a wet cloak ill laid up.
- The brain of this foolish-compounded clay, man, is not able to invent anything that tends to laughter, more than I invent or is invented on me.
- O, I am stabb'd with laughter.
- Society and its ideal average, normal mediocrity with its pleasing, mannerly, commonplace platitudes may have its fling of jeering at genius for not conforming to social usage and for breaking away from the well-trodden paths of social ruts. Far more effective and deadly are the stones of ridicule cast by the hand of genius at the Philistine Goliath, strong in his brute social power, but dull of wits. Social laughter is momentary, soon burns itself out and passes away like the fire and smokes of straw, but genius shakes the very skies with its lasting, inextinguishable laughter.
- Boris Sidis, Psychology of Laughter (1913), p. 117
- In my mind, there is nothing so illiberal and so ill-bred, as audible laughter.
- Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, in a letter to his son, (9 March 1748)
- Stupid people, who do not know how to laugh, are always pompous and self-conceited; that is, ungentle, uncharitable, unchristian.
- William Makepeace Thackeray, in Sketches and Travels in Londonm : Mr. Brown's Letters to His Nephew (1856), "On Love, Marriage, Men and Women"
- Your race, in its poverty, has unquestionably one really effective weapon—laughter. Power, Money, Persuasion, Supplication, Persecution—these can lift at a colossal humbug,—push it a little—crowd it a little—weaken it a little, century by century: but only Laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of Laughter nothing can stand.
- Mark Twain, "The Chronicle of Young Satan" (ca. 1897–1900, unfinished), published posthumously in Mark Twain's Mysterious Stranger Manuscripts (1969), ed. William Merriam Gibson
- He laughs best who laughs last.
- John Vanbrugh, The Country House, Act II, sc. v (1706). Compare an older formulation of the proverbial notion:
- Laugh on laugh on my freind Hee laugheth best that laugheth to the end.
- Anonymous Jacobean student play. Source: Frederic S. Boas (ed.) The Christmas Prince. An account of the St. John's College Revels held at Oxford in 1607-8, from the original manuscript in the college library (London: Malone Society, 1923) p. 109
- Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
- Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Solitude (1883)
- There’s something out there and it’s laughing at us.
- The house of laughter makes a house of woe.
- Edward Young, Night Thoughts (1742-1745), Night VIII, line 757
- The man with the real sense of humor is the man who can put himself in the spectator's place and laugh at his own misfortunes. That is what I am called upon to do every day.
- Bert Williams, minstrel show comedian, in "The Comic Side of Trouble" in The American Magazine (January 1918), p. 33
Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations 
- Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 428-30.
- He laughs best who laughs last.
- Old English Proverb. Better the last smile than the first laughter. Ray—Collection of Old English Proverbs. Il rit bien qui rit le dernier. (French). Rira bien que rira le dernier. (French). Ride bene chi ride l'ultimo. (Italian). Wer zuletzt lacht, lacht am besten. (German). Den leer bedst som leer sidst. (Danish).
- When the green woods laugh with the voice of joy,
And the dimpling stream runs laughing by;
When the air does laugh with our merry wit,
And the green hill laughs with the noise of it.
- William Blake, Laughing Song
- Truth's sacred fort th' exploded laugh shall win,
And coxcombs vanquish Berkeley with a grin.
- John Brown, Essay on Satire, Part II. V. 224. On the death of Pope. Prefixed to Pope's Essay on Man, in Warburton's edition of Pope's Works
- The landlord's laugh was ready chorus.
- Robert Burns, Tam o' Shanter
- Nam risu inepto res ineptior nulla est.
- Nothing is more silly than silly laughter.
- Catullus, Carmina, XXXIX. 16
- La plus perdue de toutes les journées est celle où l'on n'a pas rit.
- The most completely lost of all days is that on which one has not laughed.
- Nicolas Chamfort
- The vulgar only laugh, but never smile; whereas well-bred people often smile, but seldom laugh.
- Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, letter to his son (Feb. 17, 1754)
- Loud laughter is the mirth of the mob, who are only pleased with silly things; for true wit or good sense never excited a laugh since the creation of the world.
- Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, Letters, Volume I, p. 211, edited by Mahon
- A gentleman is often seen, but very seldom heard to laugh.
- Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, Letters, Volume II, p. 164; also 404, edited by Mahon
- Cio ch'io vedeva mi sembrava un riso
- What I saw was equal ecstasy:
One universal smile it seemed of all things.
- Dante Alighieri, Paradiso, XXVII. 5
- What I saw was equal ecstasy:
- As the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of a fool.
- Ecclesiastes, VII. 6.
- Ce n'est pas être bien aisé que de rire.
- He is not always at ease who laughs.
- St. Evremond
- I have known sorrow—therefore I
May laugh with you, O friend, more merrily
Than those who never sorrowed upon earth
And know not laughter's worth.
I have known laughter—therefore I
May sorrow with you far more tenderly
Than those who never guess how sad a thing
Seems merriment to one heart's suffering.
- Theodosia Garrison, Knowledge
- I am the laughter of the new-born child
On whose soft-breathing sleep an angel smiled.
- R. W. Gilder, Ode
- Your laugh is of the sardonic kind.
- Caius Gracchus, when his adversaries laughed at his defeat.
- Low gurgling laughter, as sweet
As the swallow's song i' the South,
And a ripple of dimples that, dancing, meet
By the curves of a perfect mouth.
- Paul Hamilton Hayne, Ariel
- And unextinguish'd laughter shakes the skies.
- Homer, The Iliad, Book I, line 771. Odyssey, Book VIII, line 116. Pope's translation
- Discit enim citius, meminitque libentius ilud
Quod quis deridet, quam quod probat et veneratur.
- For a man learns more quickly and remembers more easily that which he laughs at, than that which he approves and reveres.
- Horace, Epistles, Book II. 1. 262
- Laugh, and be fat, sir, your penance is known.
They that love mirth, let them heartily drink,
'Tis the only receipt to make sorrow sink.
- Ben Jonson, Entertainments, The Penates
- We must laugh before we are happy, for fear we die before we laugh at all.
- Jean de La Bruyère, The Characters or Manners of the Present Age (1688), Chapter IV
- The sense of humor has other things to do than to make itself conspicuous in the act of laughter.
- Alice Meynell, Laughter.
- Haste thee, Nymph, and bring with thee
Jest, and youthful Jollity,
Quips, and Cranks, and wanton Wiles,
Nods, and Becks, and wreathed Smiles,
Such as hang on Hebe's cheek,
And love to live in dimple sleek;
Sport that wrinkled Care derides,
And Laughter holding both his sides.
- John Milton, L'Allegro, line 25
- To laugh, if but for an instant only, has never been granted to man before the fortieth day from his birth, and then it is looked upon as a miracle of precocity.
- Pliny the Elder, Natural History, Book VII, Chapter I. Holland's translation
- Laugh at your friends, and if your friends are sore;
So much the better, you may laugh the more.
- Alexander Pope, Epilogue to Satire, Dialogue I, line 55
- The man that loves and laughs must sure do well.
- Alexander Pope, Imitations of Horace, Epistle VI, Book I, line 129
- To laugh were want of goodness and of grace;
And to be grave, exceeds all pow'r of face.
- Alexander Pope, Prologue to Satires, line 35
- Nimium risus pretium est, si probitatis impendio constat.
- A laugh costs too much when bought at the expense of virtue.
- Quintilian, De Institutione Oratoria, VI. 3. 5
- One inch of joy surmounts of grief a span,
Because to laugh is proper to the man.
- François Rabelais, To the Readers
- Tel qui rit vendredi, dimanche pleurera.
- He who laughs on Friday will weep on Sunday.
- Jean Racine, Plaideurs, I. 1
- Has he gone to the land of no laughter,
The man who made mirth for us all?
- James Rhoades, Death of Artemus Ward
- Niemand wird tiefer traurig als wer zu viel lächelt.
- No one will be more profoundly sad than he who laughs too much.
- Jean Paul Richter, Hesperus, XIX
- Castigat ridendo mores.
- He chastizes manners with a laugh.
- Santeuil, motto of the Comédie Italienne, and Opéra Comique, Paris
- Laughter almost ever cometh of things most disproportioned to ourselves and nature: delight hath a joy in it either permanent or present; laughter hath only a scornful tickling.
- Sir Philip Sidney, The Defence of Poesy
- Laugh and be fat.
- John Taylor, title of a tract (1615)
- For still the World prevail'd, and its dread laugh,
Which scarce the firm Philosopher can scorn.
- James Thomson, The Seasons, Autumn (1730), line 233
- Fight Virtue's cause, stand up in Wit's defence,
Win us from vice and laugh us into sense.
- Thomas Tickell, On the Prospect of Peace, Stanza 38
- Care to our coffin adds a nail, no doubt;
And every Grin, so merry, draws one out.
- John Wolcot (Peter Pindar), Expostulatory Odes, Ode 15