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A speech comes alive only if it rises from the heart, not if it floats on the lips. ~ Erasmus

Speech is the vocalized form of human communication.

Arranged alphabetically by author or source:
A · B · C · D · E · F · G · H · I · J · K · L · M · N · O · P · Q · R · S · T · U · V · W · X · Y · Z · Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations · See also · External links




  • Speak boldly, and speak truly, shame the devil.
  • And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, and from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
    • Gautama Buddha, Maha-cattarisaka Sutta, Pali Canon, as translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
  • For brevity is very good,
    Where we are, or are not understood.
  • His speech was a fine sample, on the whole,
    Of rhetoric, which the learn'd call "rigmarole."


  • una palabra es el sabor/que nuestra lengua tiene de lo eterno,/por eso hablo


  • Lo tuo ver dir m'incuora
    Buona umilta e gran tumor m'appiani.
    • The truth thy speech doth show, within my heart reproves the swelling pride.
    • Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio (1321), XI. 118.


  • Speech is but broken light upon the depth
    Of the unspoken.
  • O that grave speech would cumber our quick souls,
    Like bells that waste the moments with their loudness.
  • A speech comes alive only if it rises from the heart, not if it floats on the lips.
  • But this is slavery, not to speak one's thought.
    • Euripides, The Phoenician Women, line 392; reported in David Grene and Richmond Lattimore, eds., The Complete Greek Tragedies (1958), vol. 4, p. 392.


  • Though I say't that should not say't.
    • John Fletcher, Wit at Several Weapons (with Thomas Middleton and William Rowley; c. 1610–20; published 1647), Act II, scene 2.


  • I'm alive and still kicking; what you see I can't see and maybe you'll think before you speak.


  • He shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.


  • Eventually it may be possible for humans to speak with another species. I have come to this conclusion after careful consideration of evidence gained through my research experiments with dolphins. If new scientific developments are to be made in this direction, however, certain changes in our basic orientation and philosophy will be necessary.
  • I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That the speaking profits me, beyond any other effect.
  • For those of us who write, it is necessary to scrutinize not only the truth of what we speak, but the truth of that language by which we speak it. For others, it is to share and spread also those words that are meaningful to us. But primarily for us all, it is necessary to teach by living and speaking those truths which we believe and know beyond understanding. Because in this way alone we can survive, by taking part in a process of life that is creative and continuing, that is growth. [...] We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired. For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us. The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.


  • As everyone who has studied transcripts of tape-recorded speech knows, we all seem to be extremely reluctant to come right out and say what we mean—thus the bizarre syntax, the hesitations, the circumlocutions, the repetitions, the contradictions, the lacunae in almost every non-sentence we speak.
  • Though his tongue
    Dropp'd manna, and could make the worse appear
    The better reason, to perplex and dash
    Maturest counsels.
  • When Adam first of men,
    To first of women Eve, thus moving speech,
    Turn'd him all ear to hear new utterance flow.


  • Spoken language’s elaborate rhythms and inflections convey more meaning per word than the printed word. Compare a radio broadcast of a Shakespeare play to reading it. Word for word, listening will be easier. But readers can flip back and look at something whose meaning they might initially have missed; academics call this “regression.” Another advantage to reading is that you can “go off-line and think about what you read,” says James M. Royer, another psychology professor at U. Mass. Amherst. The weighing of relative merits gets pretty elaborate, no doubt partly because of academia’s multicultural sensitivity to non western cultures that exalt the oral tradition. Setting political correctness aside, however, it’s probably true that if you really want to absorb the multiple meanings, and you’re only going to do this once, reading is better.
    Books on tape also pose a time problem. Carver found that college-level readers optimally take in and understand spoken words at the same word rate that they take in written words—typically about 300 words per minute. The catch is that not even auctioneers can speak at a rate much beyond 250 words per minute. (To produce a 300-words-per-minute sample, Carter had to use a “time-compressed speech” device that compacts words and deletes fractions of dead air between words.) The 250-word count of an auctioneer is much faster than the 175 words per minute the typical book-on-tape actor manages.


  • Even then he had those piercing cat's eyes of his and when he had said something, finished up by saying: "If I'm wrong, put me right." And so I began to understand that you didn't speak for the sake of speaking, to say that you had done this or that, what you had eaten or drunk, but to work out an idea, to find out what makes the world go round.
  • The whole problem of life, then, is this: how to break out of one's own loneliness, how to communicate with others.


  • Il ne rend que monosyllables. Je croy qu'il feroit d'une cerise trois morceaux.
    • He replies nothing but monosyllables. I believe he would make three bites of a cherry.
    • François Rabelais, Pantagruel (1532), Book V, Chapter XXVIII.


  • The tongues of mocking wenches are as keen
    As is the razor's edge invisible,
    Cutting a smaller hair than may be seen
    Above the sense of sense; so sensible
    Seemeth their conference; their conceits have wings
    Fleeter than arrows, bullets, wind, thought, swifter things.
  • Rude am I in my speech,
    And little blessed with the soft phrase of peace;
    For since these arms of mine had seven years' pith,
    Till now some nine moons wasted, they have us'd
    Their dearest action in the tented field,
    And little of this great world can I speak,
    More than pertains to feats of broil and battle,
    And therefore little shall I grace my cause
    In speaking for myself.
  • Your fair discourse hath been as sugar,
    Making the hard way sweet and delectable.
  • I would be loath to cast away my speech, for besides that it is excellently well penn'd, I have taken great pains to con it.


  • Men will seem to see new destructions in the sky. The flames that fall from it will seem to rise in it and to fly from it with terror. They will hear every kind of animals speak in human language. They will instantaneously run in person in various parts of the world, without motion. They will see the greatest splendour in the midst of darkness. O! marvel of the human race! What madness has led you thus! You will speak with animals of every species and they with you in human speech. You will see yourself fall from great heights without any harm and torrents will accompany you, and will mingle with their rapid course.
    • Leonardo da Vinci, The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci (1938), XX Humorous Writings, as translated by Edward MacCurdy.




  • Where nature's end of language is declined,
    And men talk only to conceal the mind.
    • Edward Young, Love of Fame (1725-28), Satire II, line 207. Same idea in St. Augustine—Enchiridion ad Laurentium. Homer—Iliad, IX. 313. Traced from Goldsmith to Butler; Young to South.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 740-45.
  • I have but nine-pence in ready money, but I can draw for a thousand pounds.
    • Joseph Addison, to a lady who complained of his having talked little in company. See Boswell's Life of Johnson (1773).
  • And let him be sure to leave other men their turns to speak.
  • Discretion of speech is more than eloquence; and to speak agreeably to him with whom we deal is more than to speak in good words or in good order.
  • Revenons à nos moutons.
    • To return to the subject. (Lit. "to our mutton.")
    • Pierre Blanchet, Pierre Pathelin, III. 2. Same used by Brueys in his L'Avocat Patelin (Maître Patelin) which he says in the preface he took from Blanchet's play. Jacob's ed. in Recueil de Farces Soties, p. 96 gives text as "Revenons a ces mouton." Pasquier—Recherches de la France gives "nos mouton." Rabelais—Pantagruel, Book III. 34. ("Retournous" for "Revenons").
  • Tout ce qu'on dit de trop est fade et rebutant.
  • Let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace.
    • Book of Common Prayer, Solemnization of Matrimony.
  • He who does not make his words rather serve to conceal than discover the sense of his heart deserves to have it pulled out like a traitor's and shown publicly to the rabble.
  • Le cœur sent rarement ce que la bouche exprime.
  • Speech is silvern, silence is golden.
    • Thomas Carlyle, A Swiss Inscription. Quoted in Sartor Resartus, Book III, Chapter III.
  • Speak not at all, in any wise, till you have somewhat to speak; care not for the reward of your speaking, but simply and with undivided mind for the truth of your speaking.
  • Sermo hominum mores et celat et indicat idem.
    • The same words conceal and declare the thoughts of men.
    • Dionysius Cato, Disticha de Moribus ad Filium, Book IV. 26.
  • Ipse dixit.
    • He himself has said it.
    • Quoted by Cicero, De Nat. Deorum., I. 5, 10 as the unreasoning answer given by Pythagoras.
  • Nullum simile quatuor pedibus currit.
    • It is not easy to make a simile go on all-fours.
    • Sir Edward Coke. Institutes.
  • Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt.
    • Colossians, IV. 6.
  • But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge.
    • II Corinthians, XI. 6.
  • Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech.
    • II Corinthians, III. 12.
  • Think all you speak; but speak not all you think:
    Thoughts are your own; your words are so no more.
    Where Wisdom steers, wind cannot make you sink:
    Lips never err, when she does keep the door.
  • As a vessel is known by the sound, whether it be cracked or not; so men are proved, by their speeches, whether they be wise or foolish.
  • That's a Blazing strange answer.
  • Abstruse and mystic thoughts you must express
    With painful care, but seeming easiness;
    For truth shines brightest thro' the plainest dress.
  • I will sit down now, but the time will come when you will hear me.
  • A sophistical rhetorician, inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity.
    • Benjamin Disraeli, speech at the Riding School, London (July 27, 1878) (of Gladstone).
  • A series of congratulatory regrets.
    • Benjamin Disraeli, in reference to Lord Harrington's resolution on the Berlin Treaty (July 30, 1878).
  • The hare-brained chatter of irresponsible frivolity.
  • Miss not the discourse of the elders.
    • Ecclesiaticus, VIII. 9.
  • Blessed is the man who having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact.
    • George Eliot, Impressions of Theophrastus Such, Chapter IV, p. 97.
  • Speech is better than silence; silence is better than speech.
  • When Harel wished to put a joke or witticism into circulation, he was in the habit of connecting it with some celebrated name, on the chance of reclaiming it if it took. Thus he assigned to Talleyrand, in the "Nain Jaune," the phrase, "Speech was given to man to disguise his thoughts."
  • Mir wird von alledem so dumm,
    Als ging 'mir ein Mühlrad im Kopf herum.
  • Du sprichst ein grosses Wort gelassen aus.
  • The true use of speech is not so much to express our wants as to conceal them.
  • All the heart was full of feeling: love had ripened into speech,
    Like the sap that turns to nectar, in the velvet of the peach.
  • Know when to speake; for many times it brings
    Danger to give the best advice to kings.
  • In man speaks God.
  • These authors do not avail themselves of the invention of letters for the purpose of conveying, but of concealing their ideas.
  • I love to hear thine earnest voice,
    Wherever thou art hid. * *
    Thou say'st an undisputed thing
    In such a solemn way.
  • His speech flowed from his tongue sweeter than honey.
    • Homer, The Iliad, Book I. 124.
  • He spake, and into every heart his words
    Carried new strength and courage.
    • Homer, The Iliad, Book V, line 586. Bryant's translation.
  • He, from whose lips divine persuasion flows.
    • Homer, The Iliad, Book VII, line 143. Pope's translation.
  • For that man is detested by me as the gates of hell, whose outward words conceal his inmost thoughts.
    • Homer, The Iliad, IX. 312.
  • Persuasive speech, and more persuasive sighs,
    Silence that spoke, and eloquence of eyes.
    • Homer, The Iliad, Book XIV, line 251. Pope's translation.
  • And endless are the modes of speech, and far
    Extends from side to side the field of words.
    • Homer, The Iliad, Book XX, line 315. Bryant's translation.
  • Brevis esse laboro, obscurus fio.
    • In laboring to be concise, I become obscure.
    • Horace, Ars Poetica (18 BC), XXV.
  • I am a man of unclean lips.
    • Isaiah, VI. 5.
  • That fellow would vulgarize the day of judgment.
  • Speak gently! 'tis a little thing
    Dropp'd in the heart's deep well:
    The good, the joy, that it may bring
    Eternity shall tell.
  • L'allégorie habite un palais diaphane.
  • Speech was made to open man to man, and not to hide him; to promote commerce, and not betray it.
    • David Lloyd, State Worthies, Volume I, p. 503. Whitworth's Ed. (1665).
  • In general those who nothing have to say
    Contrive to spend the longest time in doing it.
  • Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you!
    • Luke, VI. 26.
  • They think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
    • Matthew, VI. 7.
  • Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
    • Matthew, XII. 34.
  • Faire de la prose sans le savoir.
    • To speak prose without knowing it.
    • Molière, Bourgeois Gentilhomme, II. 6.
  • Quand on se fait entendre, on parle toujours bien,
    Et tons vos beaux dictons ne servent de rien.
    • When we are understood, we always speak well, and then all your fine diction serves no purpose.
    • Molière, Les Femmes Savantes (1672), II. 6.
  • Je vous ferai un impromptu à loisir.
    • I shall make you an impromptu at my leisure.
    • Molière, Les Précieuses Ridicules, I. 12.
  • If you your lips would keep from slips,
    Five things observe with care;
    To whom you speak, of whom you speak,
    And how, and when, and where.
  • Barbarus hic ego sum, quia non intelligor ulli.
    • I am a barbarian here, because I am not understood by anyone.
    • Ovid, Tristia, Book V. 10. 37.
  • Voulez-vous qu'on croie du bien de vous? N'en dites point.
    • Do you wish people to speak well of you? Then do not speak at all yourself.
    • Blaise Pascal, Pensées (1669), VI. 59.
  • Verba togæ sequeris.
    • You follow words of the toga (language of the cultivated class).
    • Persius, Satires, 5. 14.
  • Rhetoric is the art of ruling the minds of men.
  • Odiosa est oratio, cum rem agas, longinquum loqui.
    • It is a tiresome way of speaking, when you should despatch the business, to beat about the bush.
    • Plautus, Mercator, III. 4. 23.
  • Verba facit mortuo.
    • He speaks to a dead man (i.e. wastes words).
    • Plautus, Pœnulus, Act IV. 2. 18.
  • In the pleading of cases nothing pleases so much as brevity.
  • Abstruse questions must have abstruse answers.
  • Speech is like cloth of Arras opened and put abroad, whereby the imagery doth appear in figure; whereas in thoughts they lie but as in packs.
  • In their declamations and speeches they made use of words to veil and muffle their design.
    • Plutarch, On Hearing, V. (of the Sophists).
  • And empty heads console with empty sound.
  • A soft answer turneth away wrath.
    • Proverbs, XV. 1.
  • Deus ille princeps, parens rerum fabricatorque mundi, nullo magis hominem separavit a ceteris, quæ quidem mortalia sunt, animalibus, quam dicendi facultate.
    • God, that all-powerful Creator of nature and Architect of the world, has impressed man with no character so proper to distinguish him from other animals, as by the faculty of speech.
    • Quintilian, De Institutione Oratoria, II. 17. 2.
  • Man lernt Verschwiegenheit am meisten unter Menschen, die Keine haben—und Plauderhaftigheit unter Verschwiegenen.
    • One learns taciturnity best among people who have none, and loquacity among the taciturn.
    • Jean Paul Richter, Hesperus, XII.
  • Speak after the manner of men.
    • Romans, VI. 19.
  • Was ist der langen Rede kurzer Sinn?
    • What is the short meaning of this long harangue?
    • Friedrich Schiller, Piccolomini, I. 2. 160.
  • Just at the age 'twixt boy and youth,
    When thought is speech, and speech is truth.
  • That was one lumpy shit. That was one continuous shit but it was really lumpy, I'm just saying.
    • Dr Ahmed, Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College.
  • No one minds what Jeffrey says—it is not more than a week ago that I heard him speak disrespectfully of the equator.
  • God giveth speech to all, song to the few.
  • Speech was given to the ordinary sort of men, whereby to communicate their mind; but to wise men, whereby to conceal it.
  • Sæpius locutum, nunquam me tacuisse pœnitet.
    • I have often regretted having spoken, never having kept silent.
    • Syrus, Maxims.
  • Sermo animi est imago; qualis vir, talis et oratio est.
  • La parole a été donnée à l'homme pour déguiser sa pensée.
    • Speech was given to man to disguise his thoughts.
    • Attributed to Talleyrand by Barrère in Memoirs.
  • Doubtless there are men of great parts that are guilty of downright bashfulness, that by a strange hesitation and reluctance to speak murder the finest and most elegant thoughts and render the most lively conceptions flat and heavy.
    • The Tatler, No. 252.
  • Nullum est jam dictum quod non dictum sit prius.
    • Nothing is said nowadays that has not been said before.
    • Terence, Eunuchus, Prologue. XLI.
  • On the day of the dinner of the Oystermongers' Company, what a noble speech I thought of in the cab!
  • Oh, but the heavenly grammar did I hold
    Of that high speech which angels' tongues turn gold!
    So should her deathless beauty take no wrong,
    Praised in her own great kindred's fit and cognate tongue,
    Or if that language yet with us abode
    Which Adam in the garden talked with God!
    But our untempered speech descends—poor heirs!
    Grimy and rough-cast still from Babel's brick layers:
    Curse on the brutish jargon we inherit,
    Strong but to damn, not memorise, a spirit!
    A cheek, a lip, a limb, a bosom, they
    Move with light ease in speech of working-day;
    And women we do use to praise even so.
  • Quand celui à qui l'on parle ne comprend pas et celui qui parle ne se comprend pas, c'est de la métaphysique.
    • When he to whom one speaks does not understand, and he who speaks himself does not understand, this is Metaphysics.
    • Voltaire.
  • Ils ne se servent de la pensée que pour autoriser leurs injustices, et emploient les paroles que pour déguiser leurs pensées.
    • Men use thought only to justify their wrong doings, and employ speech only to conceal their thoughts.
    • Voltaire, Dialogue XIV, Le Chapon et la Poularde (1766).
  • Il faut distinguer entre parler pour tromper et se taire pour être impénétrable.
    • We must distinguish between speaking to deceive and being silent to be reserved.
    • Voltaire, Essai sur les Mœurs, Chapter CLXIII.
  • Choice word and measured phrase, above the reach
    Of ordinary men.

See also


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