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Wit is a form of intellectual humor, and a wit is someone skilled in making witty remarks. Forms of wit include the quip and repartee.
- For when the wine is in, the wit is out.
- Thomas Becon, Catechism, 375
- WIT, n. The salt with which the American humorist spoils his intellectual cookery by leaving it out.
- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911).
- WITTICISM, n. A sharp and clever remark, usually quoted, and seldom noted; what the Philistine is pleased to call a "joke."
- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911).
- Essere la natura de' motti cotale, che essi come la pecora morde deono cosi mordere l'uditore, e non come 'l cane: percio che, se come cane mordesse il motto, non sarebbe motto, ma villania.
- The nature of wit is such that its bite must be like that of a sheep rather than a dog, for if it were to bite the listener like a dog, it would no longer be wit but abuse.
- Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron (c. 1350), Sixth Day, Third Story (tr. G. H. McWilliam)
- Aristotle said * * * melancholy men of all others are most witty.
- Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), Part I, Section III. Memb. 1. Subsect. 3.
- We grant, although he had much wit,
H' was very shy of using it,
As being loth to wear it out,
And therefore bore it not about;
Unless on holy days or so,
As men their best apparel do.
- Samuel Butler, Hudibras, Part I (1663-64), Canto I, line 45.
- Great wits and valours, like great states,
Do sometimes sink with their own weights.
- Samuel Butler, Hudibras, Part II (1664), Canto I, line 269.
- His wit invites you by his looks to come,
But when you knock, it never is at home.
- William Cowper, Conversation (1782), line 303.
- Great wits are sure to madness near allied,
And thin partitions do their bounds divide.
- John Dryden, Absalom and Achitophel (1681), Part I, line 163.
- Their heads sometimes so little that there is no room for wit; sometimes so long, that there is no wit for so much room.
- Thomas Fuller, The Holy State and the Profane State (1642), Book IV, Chapter XII. Of Natural Fools. Maxim I.
- As a wit, if not first, in the very first line.
- Oliver Goldsmith, Retaliation (1774), line 96.
- He must be a dull Fellow indeed, whom neither Love, Malice, nor Necessity, can inspire with Wit.
- Jean de La Bruyère, The Characters or Manners of the Present Age (1688), Chapter IV.
- To the many, witticisms not only require to be explained, like riddles, but are also like new shoes, which people require to wear many times before they get accustomed to them.
- Full context: [striving to pervert some poor innocent and ill-used word from its lawful meaning till it ceases to have any at all — worrying some unfortunate idea till, like the hunted hare, it is worried to death — dealing in witticisms whose edge has long since been worn off by constant use ; and truly to the many, witticisms not only require to be explained, like riddles, but are also like new shoes, which people require to wear many times before they get accustomed to them.]
- Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Francesca Carrara (1834) Chapter 77, combined edition
- After all, wit is something like sunshine in a frost—very sharp, very bright, but very cold and uncomfortable.
- Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Ethel Churchill (1838) Vol 1 Chapter 17.
- On peut dire que son esprit brille aux dépens de sa mèmoire.
- One may say that his wit shines at the expense of his memory.
- Alain-René Lesage, Gil Blas (1715-1735), III, XI. Of Carlos Alonso de la Ventoleria.
- Wit's an unruly engine, wildly striking
Sometimes a friend, sometimes the engineer:
Hast thou the knack? pamper it not with liking;
But if thou want it, buy it not too deare
Many affecting wit beyond their power,
Have got to be a deare fool for an houre.
- George Herbert, The Temple (1633), The Church Porch, Stanza 41.
- This man [Chesterfield] I thought had been a lord among wits; but I find he is only a wit among lords.
- Samuel Johnson, reported in James Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson (1764).
- Wit: a form of sex display.
- A. R. Orage, On Love, with Some Aphorisms and Other Essays (London: The Janus Press, 1957), "Aphorisms", p. 61.
- There's a hell of a distance between wise-cracking and wit. Wit has truth in it; wise-cracking is simply calisthenics with words.
- Dorothy Parker, The Paris Review (Summer 1956)
- For wit and judgment often are at strife,
Though meant each other's aid, like man and wife.
- Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism (1709), line 82.
- So modest plainness sets off sprightly wit,
For works may have more wit than does 'em good,
As bodies perish through excess of blood.
- Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism (1709), line 302.
- How the wit brightens! how the style refines!
- Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism (1709), line 421.
- If faith itself has different dresses worn,
What wonder modes in wit should take their turn?
- Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism (1709), line 446.
- True wit is nature to advantage dress'd,
What oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed.
- Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism (1709), Part II, line 97. "Wit is that which has been often thought, but never before was well expressed." As paraphrased by Johnson, Life of Cowley.
- You have a nimble wit; I think it was made of Atalanta's heels.
- William Shakespeare, As You Like It (c.1599-1600), Act III, scene 2, line 292.
- Make the doors upon a woman's wit and it will out at the casement; shut that and 'twill out at the key-hole; stop that, 'twill fly with the smoke out at the chimney.
- William Shakespeare, As You Like It (c.1599-1600), Act IV, scene 1, line 162.
- Since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief.
- William Shakespeare, Hamlet (1600-02), Act II, scene 2, line 90.
- They have a plentiful lack of wit.
- William Shakespeare, Hamlet (1600-02), Act II, scene 2, line 201.
- I am not only witty in myself, but the cause that wit is in other men.
- William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part II (c. 1597-99), Act I, scene 2, line 11.
- Rudeness is a sauce to his good wit,
Which gives men stomach to digest his words,
With better appetite.
- William Shakespeare, Julius Cæsar (1599), Act I, scene 2, line 304.
- His eye begets occasion for his wit;
For every object that the one doth catch,
The other turns to a mirth-moving jest.
- William Shakespeare, Love's Labour's Lost (c. 1595-6), Act II, scene 1, line 69.
- Your wit's too hot, it speeds too fast, 'twill tire.
- William Shakespeare, Love's Labour's Lost (c. 1595-6), Act II, scene 1, line 120.
- Great men may jest with saints; 'tis wit in them;
But, in the less, foul profanation.
- William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure (1603), Act II, scene 2, line 127.
- He doth, indeed, show some sparks that are like wit.
- William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing (1598-99), Act II, scene 3, line 193.
- A good old man, sir: he will be talking, as they say, When the age is in, the wit is out.
- William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing (1598-99), Act III, scene 5, line 36.
- Sir, your wit ambles well; it goes easily.
- William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing (1598-99), Act V, scene 1, line 159.
- Thy wit is as quick as the greyhound's mouth; it catches.
- William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing (1598-99), Act V, scene 2, line 11.
- To leave this keen encounter of our wits,
And fall somewhat into a slower method.
- William Shakespeare, Richard III (c. 1591), Act I, scene 2, line 115.
- Thy wit is a very bitter sweeting: it is most sharp sauce.
- William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet (1597), Act II, scene 4, line 87.
- Look, he's winding up the watch of his wit; by and by it will strike.
- William Shakespeare, The Tempest (c. 1610-1612), Act II, scene 1, line 12.
- Those wits that think they have thee, do very oft prove fools; and I, that am sure I lack thee, may pass for a wise man; for what says Quinapalus? "Better a witty fool than a foolish wit."
- William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night (c. 1601-02), Act I, scene 5, line 37.
- Against their wills what numbers ruin shun,
Purely through want of wit to be undone!
Nature has shown by making it so rare,
That wit's a jewel which we need not wear.
- Edward Young, Epistle to Mr. Pope, Epistle II, line 80.
- As in smooth oil the razor best is whet,
So wit is by politeness sharpest set;
Their want of edge from their offence is seen,
Both pain us least when exquisitely keen.
- Edward Young, Love of Fame (1725-28), Satire II, line 118.
Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations
- Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 883-86.
- An ounce of wit is worth a pound of sorrow.
- Richard Baxter, Of Self-Denial.
- Que les gens d'esprit sont bêtes.
- What silly people wits are!
- Pierre de Beaumarchais, Barbier de Séville, I. 1.
- Votre esprit en donne aux autres.
- Your wit makes others witty.
- Catherine II, Letter to Voltaire.
- Don't put too fine a point to your wit for fear it should get blunted.
- Miguel de Cervantes, The Little Gypsy.
- I am a fool, I know it; and yet, Heaven help me, I'm poor enough to be a wit.
- William Congreve, Love for Love, Act I, scene 1.
- Wit, now and then, struck smartly, shows a spark.
- William Cowper, Table Talk, line 665.
- Ev'n wit's a burthen, when it talks too long.
- John Dryden, Sixth Satire of Juvenal, line 573.
- Wit will shine
Through the harsh cadence of a rugged line.
- John Dryden, To the Memory of Mr. Oldham.
- Mit wenig Witz und viel Behagen
Dreht jeder sich im engen Zirkeltanz
Wie junge Katzen mit dem Schwanz.
- With little wit and ease to suit them,
They whirl in narrow circling trails,
Like kittens playing with their tails.
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust, I. 5. 94.
- With little wit and ease to suit them,
- Les beaux esprits lernen einander durch dergleichen rencontre erkennen.
- It is by such encounters that wits come to know each other.
- Andreas Gryphius, Horribilicribfax, Act IV, scene 7. Voltaire, letter to Thieriot, June 30, 1760, used the expression. See Büchmann, Geflügelte Worte. Ed. 10, p. 123.
- Wit is the salt of conversation, not the food.
- William Hazlitt, Lectures on the English Comic Writers, Lecture I.
- At our wittes end.
- John Heywood, Proverbs, Part I, Chapter VIII. Psalms CVII. 27. ("Their wits").
- Wit is the clash and reconcilement of incongruities; the meeting of extremes round a corner.
- Leigh Hunt, Wit and Humour.
- Wit, like money, bears an extra value when rung down immediately it is wanted. Men pay severely who require credit.
- Douglas Jerrold, Specimens of Jerrold's Wit, Wit.
- Je n'ai jamais d'esprit qu'au bas de l'escalier.
- I never have wit until I am below stairs.
- Jean de La Bruyère, according to J. J. Rousseau. Esprit de l'escalier, backstair wit, is credited to M. de Treville by Pierre Nicole. For use of this phrase see The King's English, p. 32. Note.
- A man does not please long when he has only one species of wit.
- François de La Rochefoucauld, Maxims. No. 438.
- A small degree of wit, accompanied by good sense, is less tiresome in the long run than a great amount of wit without it.
- François de La Rochefoucauld, Maxims. No. 529.
- Medio de fonte leporum
Surgit amari aliquid quod in ipsis floribus angat.
- In the midst of the fountain of wit there arises something bitter, which stings in the very flowers.
- Lucretius, IV. 1,133.
- Mother Wit. (Nature's mother wit).
- Christopher Marlowe, Prologue to Tamerlaine the Great, Part I. Middleton, Your five Gallants (1607), Act I, scene 1. Dryden, Ode to St. Cecilia. Spenser, Faerie Queene, Book IV, Canto X, Stanza 21. Taming of the Shrew, Act II, scene 1.
- Have you summoned your wits from wool-gathering?
- Thomas Middleton, The Family of Love (1602-07), Act V, scene 3.
- Nul n'aura de l'esprit, hors nous et nos amis.
- No one shall have wit save we and our friends.
- Molière, Let Femmes Savantes, III. 2.
- L'impromptu est justement la pierre de touche de l'esprit.
- Repartee is precisely the touchstone of the man of wit.
- Molière, Les Prècieuses Ridicules, X.
- La raillerie est un discours en faveur de son esprit contre son bon naturel.
- Raillery is a mode of speaking in favor of one's wit at the expense of one's better nature.
- Charles de Montesquieu, Pensèes Diverses.
- Whose wit, in the combat, as gentle as bright,
Ne'er carried a heart-stain away on its blade.
- Thomas Moore, Lines on the Death of Sheridan, Stanza 11.
- Wit is the most rascally, contemptible, beggarly thing on the face of the earth.
- Arthur Murphy, The Apprentice: A Farce in Two Acts (1756).
- Sal Atticum.
- Attic wit.
- Pliny the Elder, Natural History, 31. 7. 41.
- A wit with dunces, and a dunce with wits.
- Alexander Pope, Dunciad, Book IV, line 92.
- You beat your pate, and fancy wit will come;
Knock as you please, there's nobody at home.
- Alexander Pope, Epigram. Last phrase in Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby.
- Some men's wit is like a dark lantern, which serves their own turn and guides them their own way, but is never known (according to the Scripture phrase) either to shine forth before men, or to glorify their Father in heaven.
- Alexander Pope, Thoughts on Various Subjects.
- Generally speaking there is more wit than talent in this world. Society swarms with witty people who lack talent.
- Fine wits destroy themselves with their own plots, in meddling with great affairs of state.
- John Selden, Table Talk, Wit.
- Man could direct his ways by plain reason, and support his life by tasteless food; but God has given us wit, and flavour, and brightness, and laughter, and perfumers, to enliven the days of man's pilgrimage, and to "charm his pained steps over the burning marle."
- Sydney Smith, Dangers and Advantages of Wit.
- Surprise is so essential an ingredient of wit that no wit will bear repetition;—at least the original electrical feeling produced by any piece of wit can never be renewed.
- Sydney Smith, Lectures on Moral Philosophy, No. 10.
- One wit, like a knuckle of ham in soup, gives a zest and flavour to the dish, but more than one serves only to spoil the pottage.
- Tobias Smollett, Humphrey Clinker.
- Wit consists in knowing the resemblance of things which differ, and the difference of things which are alike.
- Anne Louise Germaine de Staël, Germany, Part III, Chapter VIII.
- It is having in some measure a sort of wit to know how to use the wit of others.
- Stanisław Leszczyński (King of Poland), Maxims and Moral Sentences.
- It is with wits as with razors, which are never so apt to cut those they are employed on as when they have lost their edge.
- Jonathan Swift, Tale of a Tub: Author's Preface.
- Too much wit makes the world rotten.
- Alfred Tennyson, Idylls of the King (published 1859-1885), The Last Tournament.
- And wit its honey lent, without the sting.
- Alfred Tennyson, To the Memory of Lord Talbot.
- Good wits will jump.
- George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, The Chances (1682), Act IV, scene 1. John Byrom, The Winners, line 39. Cervantes, Don Quixote, Part II, Chapter XXXVIII. Sterne, Tristram Shandy.
- He had too thoughtful a wit: like a penknife in too narrow a sheath, too sharp for his body.
- Izaak Walton, Life of George Herbert. Reported as Herbert's saying about himself.
- Nae wut without a portion o' impertinence.
- John Wilson, Noctes Ambrosianæ.
- Though I am young, I scorn to flit
On the wings of borrowed wit.
- George Wither, The Shepherd's Hunting.