In language, a word is the smallest free form that may be uttered in isolation with semantic or pragmatic content (with literal or practical meaning).
- If I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul.
- Isaac Asimov, in I. Asimov: A Memoir (1994)
- Words are pegs to hang ideas on.
- Henry Ward Beecher, in "Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit" in The Human Mind (1887)
- When we desire to confine our words, we commonly say they are spoken under the rose.
- Thomas Browne, in Vulgar Errors, as reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)
- If Shakespeare required a word and had not met it in civilised discourse, he unhesitatingly made it up.
- Anthony Burgess, A Mouthful of Air: Language and Languages, Especially English (1992)
- When the imagination sleeps, words are emptied of their meaning: a deaf population absent-mindedly registers the condemnation of a man. ... there is no other solution but to speak out and show the obscenity hidden under the verbal cloak.
- As long as words a different sense will bear,
And each may be his own interpreter,
Our airy faith will no foundation find;
The word's a weathercock for every wind.
- John Dryden, The Hind and the Panther (1687), Part I, line 462–465
- Our words have wings, but fly not where we would.
- George Eliot, The Spanish Gypsy (1868), Book III
- I see more than this, more than I can tell you, More than there are words for.
At this moment there is no decision to be made;
The decision will be made by powers beyond us
Which now and then emerge.
- The Letheri are masters at corrupting words, their meanings. They call war peace, they call tyranny liberty. On which side of the shadow you stand decides a word's meaning. Words are the weapons used by those who see others with contempt. A contempt which only deepens when they see how those others are deceived and made into fools because they choose to believe. Because in their naivety they thought the meaning of a word was fixed, immune to abuse.
- What if my words
Were meant for deeds.
- George Eliot, The Spanish Gypsy (1868), Book III
- 'Tis a word that's quickly spoken,
Which being restrained, a heart is broken.
- Any concepts or words which have been formed in the past through the interplay between the world and ourselves are not really sharply defined with respect to their meaning: that is to say, we do not know exactly how far they will help us in finding our way in the world. We often know that they can be applied to a wide range of inner or outer experience, but we practically never know precisely the limits of their applicability. This is true even of the simplest and most general concepts like "existence" and "space and time". Therefore, it will never be possible by pure reason to arrive at some absolute truth.
The concepts may, however, be sharply defined with regard to their connections... a group of connected concepts may be applicable to a wide field of experience and will help us to find our way in this field. But the limits of the applicability will in general not be known, at least not completely...
- Werner Heisenberg, in Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science (1958), lectures delivered at University of St. Andrews, Scotland, Winter 1955-56
- Everything that is thought and expressed in words is one-sided, only half the truth; it all lacks totality, completeness, unity. When the Illustrious Buddha taught about the world, he had to divide it into Samsara and Nirvana, illusion and truth, into suffering and salvation. One cannot do otherwise, there is no other method for those who teach. But the world itself, being in and around us, is never one-sided. Never is a man or a deed wholly Samsara or wholly Nirvana; never is a man wholly a saint or a sinner. This only seems so because we suffer the illusion that time is something real.
- Words do not express thoughts very well. They always become a little different immediately after they are expressed, a little distorted, a little foolish. And yet it also pleases me and seems right that what is of value and wisdom to one man seems nonsense to another.
- Words are good servants but bad masters.
- Words ought to be a little wild for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking.
- John Maynard Keynes, New Statesman and Nation (15 July 1933)
- With high words, that bore
Semblance of worth, not substance.
- Yet hold it more humane, more heav'nly, first,
By winning words to conquer willing hearts,
And make persuasion do the work of fear.
- There is something indecent in words.
- Cesare Pavese, The house on the hill
- I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue; I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me.
- Psalm 39:1
- My father still reads the dictionary everyday. He says your life depends on your ability to master words.
- Arthur Scargill, quoted in The Sunday Times (10 January 1982)
- Syllables govern the world.
- John Selden, Table Talk (1689), Power
- What art thou? Have not I
An arm as big as thine? a heart as big?
Thy words, I grant, are bigger, for I wear
My dagger in my mouth.
- What do you read, my lord?
Words, words, words.
- Unpack my heart with words
And fall a-cursing, like a very drab.
- My words fly up, my thoughts remain below:
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.
- Familiar in his mouth as household words.
- 'Tis well said again;
And 'tis a kind of good deed to say well:
And yet words are no deeds.
- But yesterday the word of Cæsar might
Have stood against the world; now lies he there,
And none so poor to do him reverence.
- Zounds! I was never so bethump'd with words
Since I first call'd my brother's father dad.
- O they have lived long on the alms-basket of words. I marvel thy master hath not eaten thee for a word; for thou art not so long by the head as honorificabilitudinitatibus: thou art easier swallowed than a flap-dragon.
- Taffeta phrases, silken terms precise,
Three-piled hyperboles, spruce affectation,
- Madam, you have bereft me of all words,
Only my blood speaks to you in my veins.
- Here are a few of the unpleasant'st words
That ever blotted paper!
- His very words are a fantastical banquet, just so many strange dishes.
- But words are words; I never yet did hear
That the bruis'd heart was pierced through the ear.
- I know thou'rt full of love and honesty,
And weigh'st thy words before thou givest them breath.
- How long a time lies in one little word!
Four lagging winters and four wanton springs
End in a word: such is the breath of kings.
- O, but they say the tongues of dying men
Enforce attention like deep harmony:
Where words are scarce, they are seldom spent in vain,
For they breathe truth that breathe their words in pain.
He that no more must say is listen'd more.
- These words are razors to my wounded heart.
- Words pay no debts, give her deeds.
- Words, words, mere words, no matter from the heart; Th' effect doth operate another way.
- Words are grown so false, I am loath to prove reason with them.
- A fine volley of words, gentlemen, and quickly shot off.
- Words are but holy as the deeds they cover.
- Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Cenci (1819), Act II, scene 2
- The idiot heard the sounds, but they had no meaning for him. He lived inside somewhere, apart, and the little link between word and significance hung broken.
- The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—'tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.
- Mark Twain, letter to George Bainton, 15 October 1888, solicited for and printed in George Bainton, The Art of Authorship: Literary Reminiscences, Methods of Work, and Advice to Young Beginners (1890), pp. 87–88. (Twain adapts a metaphor due to Josh Billings, from Josh Billings' Old Farmer's Allminax, "January 1871")
- Words realize nothing, vivify nothing to you, unless you have suffered in your own person the thing which the words try to describe.
- Mark Twain A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889) Ch. 28
Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations
- Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 902-07.
- Words of truth and soberness.
- Acts, XXVI. 25
- Words, as a Tartar's bow, do shoot back upon the understanding of the wisest, and mightily entangle and pervert the judgment.
- Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning
- Words of affection, howsoe'er express'd,
The latest spoken still are deem'd the best.
- Joanna Baillie, Address to Miss Agnes Baillie on her Birthday, line 126
- 'Twas he that ranged the words at random flung,
Pierced the fair pearls and them together strung.
- Bidpai (Pilpay), Anvar-i Suhaili, Eastwick's translation
- You have only, when before your glass, to keep pronouncing to yourself nimini-pimini; the lips cannot help taking their plie.
- General John Burgoyne, The Heiress, Act III, scene 2
- A very great part of the mischiefs that vex this world arises from words.
- Edmund Burke, letter (c. 1795)
- Boys flying kites haul in their white winged birds;
You can't do that way when you're flying words.
"Careful with fire," is good advice we know
"Careful with words," is ten times doubly so.
Thoughts unexpressed may sometimes fall back dead;
But God Himself can't kill them when they're said.
- Will Carleton, The First Settler's Story, Stanza 21
- High Air-castles are cunningly built of Words, the Words well bedded also in good Logic-mortar; wherein, however, no Knowledge will come to lodge.
- Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus, Book I, Chapter VIII
- The Moral is that gardeners pine,
Whene'er no pods adorn the vine.
Of all sad words experience gleans,
The saddest are: "It might have beans."
(I did not make this up myself:
'Twas in a book upon my shelf.
It's witty, but I don't deny
It's rather Whittier than I).
- Guy Wetmore Carryl, Haw Jack found that Beans may go back an a Chap
- Words writ in waters.
- George Chapman, Revenge for Honour, Act V, scene 2
- Words are but empty thanks.
- Colley Cibber, Woman's Wit, Act V
- Fair words butter no parsnips.
- Clarke, Parœmiologia, p. 12 (Ed. 1639). Quoted "soft words"
- Mum's the word.
- George Colman the Younger, Battle of Hexham, Act II, scene 1
- Without knowing the force of words, it is impossible to know men.
- Confucius, Analects, Book XX, Chapter III
- Words that weep, and tears that speak.
- Abraham Cowley, The Prophet, Stanza 2, line 8
- Father is rather vulgar, my dear. The word Papa, besides, gives a pretty form to the lips. Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism are all very good words for the lips; especially prunes and prism.
- Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit, Part II, Chapter V
- But words once spoke can never be recall'd.
- Wentworth Dillon, Art of Poetry, line 442
- It used to be a common saying of Myson's that men ought not to seek for things in words, but for words in things; for that things are not made on account of words but that words are put together for the sake of things.
- Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers, Book I. Myson, Chapter III
- I trade both with the living and the dead for the enrichment of our native language.
- John Dryden, Dedication to translation of The Æneid
- And torture one poor word ten thousand ways.
- John Dryden, Mac Flecknoe, line 208
- Let thy words be few.
- Ecclesiastes. V. 2
- Let no man deceive you with vain words.
- Ephesians. V. 6
- An undisputed power
Of coining money from the rugged ore,
Nor less of coining words, is still confessed,
If with a legal public stamp impressed.
- Philip Francis, Horace, Art of Poetry
- New words and lately made shall credit claim
If from a Grecian source they gently stream.
- Philip Francis, Horace, Art of Poetry
- That blessed word Mesopotamia.
- Garrick tells of the power of George Whitefield's voice, "he could make men either laugh or cry by pronouncing the word Mesopotamia." Related by Francis Jacox. An old woman said she found great support in that comfortable word Mesopotamia. See Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.
- Der Worte sind genug gewechselt,
Lasst mich auch endlich Thaten sehn.
- Gewöhnlich glaubt der Mensch, wenn er nur Worte hört,
Es müsse sich dabei doch auch was denken.
- Es macht das Volk sich auch mit Worten Lust.
- The rabble also vent their rage in words.
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Torquato Tasso, II. 2. 201
- At this every lady drew up her mouth as if going to pronounce the letter P.
- Oliver Goldsmith, letter to Robert Bryanton. Sept., 1758
- If of all words of tongue and pen,
The saddest are, "It might have been,"
More sad are these we daily see,
"It is, but it hadn't ought to be."
- Bret Harte, Mrs. Jenkins
- The arrow belongs not to the archer when it has once left the bow; the word no longer belongs to the speaker when it has once passed his lips, especially when it has been multiplied by the press.
- Heinrich Heine, Religion and Philosophy, Preface (1852)
- Words and feathers the wind carries away.
- George Herbert, Jacula Prudentum (1651)
- Words are women, deeds are men.
- George Herbert, Jacula Prudentum (1651)
- For words are wise men's counters—they do but reckon by them—but they are the money of fools.
- Thomas Hobbes, The Leviathan, Part I, Chapter IV, scene 15
- Words sweet as honey from his lips distill'd.
- Homer, The Iliad, Book I, line 332. Pope's translation
- Winged words.
- Homer, The Iliad, Book XX. 331. Pope's translation
- Tristia m�stum
Vultum verba decent; iratum, plena minarum;
Ludentem, lasciva; severum, seria dictu.
- Sorrowful words become the sorrowful; angry words suit the passionate; light words a playful expression; serious words suit the grave.
- Horace, Ars Poetica (18 BC), 105
- Delere licebit
Quod non edideris; nescit vox missa reverti.
- It will be practicable to blot written words which you do not publish; but the spoken word it is not possible to recall.
- Horace, Ars Poetica (18 BC), 389. Epistles. I. 18. 71
- Words are the soul's ambassadors, who go
Abroad upon her errands to and fro.
- J. Howell, Of Words
- How forcible are right words!
- Job, VI. 25
- Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?
- Job, XXXVIII. 2
- I am not yet so lost in lexicography, as to forget that words are the daughters of earth, and that things are the sons of heaven.
- Samuel Johnson, Preface to his Dictionary. Sir William Jones quotes the saying as proverbial in India ("deeds" for "sons"). Same used by Sir Thomas Bodley—Letter to his Librarian. (1604)
- To make dictionaries is dull work.
- Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language. Dull
- Like orient pearls at random strung.
- Sir William Jones. Translation from the Persian of Hafiz
- The masterless man … afflicted with the magic of the necessary words…. Words that may become alive and walk up and down in the hearts of the hearers.
- Rudyard Kipling, speech at the Royal Academy Banquet, London. 1906
- We might have been—these are but common words,
And yet they make the sum of life's bewailing.
- Letitia E. Landon, Three Extracts from the Diary of a Week
- We should have a great many fewer disputes in the world if words were taken for what they are, the signs of our ideas only, and not for things themselves.
- John Locke, Essay on the Human Understanding, III. 10
- Speaking words of endearment where words of comfort availed not.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie (1847), Part I. V, line 43
- My words are little jars
For you to take and put upon a shelf.
Their shapes are quaint and beautiful,
And they have many pleasant colours and lustres
To recommend them.
Also the scent from them fills the room
With sweetness of flowers and crushed grasses.
- Amy Lowell, A Gift
- There comes Emerson first, whose rich words, every one,
Are like gold nails in temples to hang trophies on.
- James Russell Lowell, A Fable for Critics
- Ein Wörtlein kann ihn fällen.
- A single little word can strike him dead.
- Martin Luther. (Of the Pope)
- Some grave their wrongs on marble; He, more just,
Stooped down serene, and wrote them in the dust.
- Richard R. Madden, Poems on Sacred Subjects
- Words are men's daughters, but God's sons are things.
- Samuel Madden, Boulter's Monument. Said to have been inserted by Dr. Johnson
- Words that weep, and strains that agonise.
- David Mallet (or Malloch), Amyntor and Theodora, II. 306
- Strains that sigh and words that weep.
- David Mallet, Funeral Hymn, 23
- It is as easy to draw back a stone thrown with force from the hand, as to recall a word once spoken.
- Menander, Ex Incert. Comæd, p. 216
- Words, however, are things; and the man who accords
To his language the license to outrage his soul,
Is controll'd by the words he disdains to control.
- Owen Meredith (Lord Lytton), Lucile (1860), Part I, Canto II, Stanza VI
- How many honest words have suffered corruption since Chaucer's days!
- Thomas Middleton, No Wit, No Help, Like a Woman's, Act II, scene 1
- His words, * * * like so many nimble and airy servitors, trip about him at command.
- John Milton, Apology for Smectymnuus
- And to bring in a new word by the head and shoulders, they leave out the old one.
- Michel de Montaigne, Essays, Upon some Verses of Vergil
- How many quarrels, and how important, has the doubt as to the meaning of this syllable "Hoc" produced for the world!
- Michel de Montaigne, Essays, Book II, Chapter XII. (Referring to the controversies on transubstantiation—"Hoc est corpus meum")
- Words repeated again have as another sound, so another sense.
- Michel de Montaigne, Essays, Book III, Chapter XII
- So spake those wary foes, fair friends in look,
And so in words great gifts they gave and took,
And had small profit, and small loss thereby.
- William Morris, Jason, Book VIII. 379
- The word impossible is not in my dictionary.
- Things were first made, then words.
- Sir T. Overbury, A Wife
- Hei mihi, quam facile est (quamvis hic contigit omnes),
Alterius lucta fortia verba loqui!
- Ah me! how easy it is (how much all have experienced it) to indulge in brave words in another person's trouble.
- Ovid, Ad Liviam, 9
- Non opus est verbis, credite rebus.
- There is no need of words; believe facts.
- Ovid, Fasti, II. 734
- Le monde se paye de paroles; peu approfondissement les choses.
- The world is satisfied with words. Few appreciate the things beneath.
- Blaise Pascal, Lettres Provinciales, II
- In pertusum ingerimus dicta dolium, operam ludimus.
- We are pouring our words into a sieve, and lose our labor.
- Plautus, Pseudolus, I. 3. 135
- Words will build no walls.
- Plutarch, Life of Pericles. Cratinus ridiculed the long wall Pericles proposed to build.
- Words are like leaves; and where they most abound,
Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found.
- In words, as fashions, the same rule will hold:
Alike fantastic, if too new, or old:
Be not the first by whom the new are tried,
Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.
- Each word-catcher, that lives on syllables.
- Alexander Pope, Prologue to Satires, 166.
- They say * * *
That, putting all his words together,
'Tis three blue beans in one blue bladder.
- Matthew Prior, Alma, Canto I, line 26.
- A word spoken in good season, how good is it!
- Proverbs, XV. 23.
- A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.
- Proverbs, XXV. 11.
- The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords.
- Psalms. LV. 21.
- Inanis verborum torrens.
- An unmeaning torrent of words.
- Quintilian. 10, 7, 23.
- Souvent d'un grand dessein un mot nous fait juger.
- A single word often betrays a great design.
- Jean Racine, Athalie, II. 6.
- He that useth many words for the explaining any subject, doth, like the cuttle fish, hide himself for the most part in his own ink.
- John Ray, On Creation.
- One of our defects as a nation is a tendency to use what have been called "weasel words." When a weasel sucks eggs the meat is sucked out of the egg. If you use a "weasel word" after another there is nothing left of the other.
- Theodore Roosevelt, speech at St. Louis (May 31, 1916). "Weasel word" taken from a story by Stewart Chaplin in Century Magazine, June, 1900.
- Satis eloquentiæ sapientiæ parum.
- Enough words, little wisdom.
- Sallust, Catilina, V.
- Schnell fertig ist die Jugend mit dem Wort.
- Youth is too hasty with words.
- Friedrich Schiller, Wallenstein's Tod, II. 2. 99.
- O! many a shaft, at random sent,
Finds mark the archer little meant!
And many a word, at random spoken,
May soothe or wound a heart that's broken!
- Walter Scott, Lord of the Isles, Canto V, Stanza 18.
- We know not what we do
When we speak words.
- Percy Bysshe Shelley, Rosalind and Helen, line 1,108.
- So all my best is dressing old words new.
- William Shakespeare, Sonnet LXXVI.
- The arts Babblative and Scriblative.
- Robert Southey, Colloquies.
- The artillery of words.
- Jonathan Swift, Ode to Sancroft, line 13.
- But from sharp words and wits men pluck no fruit;
And gathering thorns they shake the tree at root;
For words divide and rend,
But silence is most noble till the end.
- Algernon Charles Swinburne, Atalanta.
- I have not skill
From such a sharp and waspish word as "No"
To pluck the sting.
- Henry Taylor, Philip Van Artevelde, Act I, scene 2.
- I sometimes hold it half a sin
To put in words the grief I feel;
For words, like Nature, half reveal
And half conceal the Soul within.
* * * * *
In words, like weeds, I'll wrap me o'er,
Like coarsest clothes against the cold;
But that large grief which these enfold
Is given in outline and no more.
- Dictum sapienti sat est.
- As the last bell struck, a peculiar sweet smile shone over his face, and he lifted up his head a little, and quickly said, "Adsum!" and fell back. It was the word we used at school, when names were called; and lo, he, whose heart was as that of a little child, had answered to his name, and stood in the presence of The Master.
- William Makepeace Thackeray, Newcomes, Book II, Chapter XLII.
- Deep in my heart subsides the infrequent word,
And there dies slowly throbbing like a wounded bird.
- Francis Thompson, Her Portrait, Stanza 3.
- Hold fast the form of sound words.
- II Timothy. I. 13.
- As shadows attend substances, so words follow upon things.
- Richard Chenevix Trench, Study of Wards.
- Dat inania verba,
Dat sine mente sonum.
- You [Pindar] who possessed the talent of speaking much without saying anything.
- Voltaire, Sur la Carrousel de l'Impératrice de Russie.
- You phrase tormenting fantastic chorus,
With strangest words at your beck and call.
- Sir William Watson, Orgy on Parnassus.
- For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: "It might have been!"
- John Greenleaf Whittier, Maud Muller, line 105.
- Would you repeat that again, sir, for it soun's sae sonorous that the words droon the ideas?
- John Wilson, Noctes Ambrosianiæ, 27.
- Three sleepless nights I passed in sounding on,
Through words and things, a dim and perilous way.
- William Wordsworth, Borderer, Act IV, scene 2.
- Fair words enough a man shall find,
They be good cheap: they cost right nought,
Their substance is but only wind.
- Sir Thomas Wyatt, Of Dissembling Words.
The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904)
- Quotes reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 250-251.
- There is no magic in words.
- Lord Kenyon, King v. Inhabitants of North Nibley (1792), 5 T. R. 24; Lord Romilly, Lord v. Jeffkins (1865), 35 Beav. 16.
- Most of the disputes in the world arise from words.
- Lord Mansfield, Morgan v. Jones (1773), Lofft. 177; Vide "Essay on Human Understanding," c. 9,10,11.
- Rather commend yourself by your actions, than your expressions; one good action is worth twenty good expressions.
- Jefferies, C .J., Braddon and Speke's Case (1684), 9 How. St. Tr. 1185.
- Words pass from men lightly.
- Plowden, 308 b.; quoted by Wilmot, J., Pillans v. Van Mierop (1764), 3 Burr. Part IV. 1671.
- The words are like Jack in a Box, and nobody knows what to make of them.
- Roll, C.J., Parker v. Cook (1650), Style's Rep. 241.
- Is not the Judge bound to know the meaning of all words in the English language; or if they are used technically or scientifically, to inform his own mind by evidence, and then to determine the meaning?
- Martin, B., Hills v. The London Gaslight Co. (1857), 27 L. J. Ex. 63.
- Qiue ad unumfinem loqunta sunt, non debent ad alium detorqueri: Those words which are spoken to one end, ought not to be perverted to another.
- 4 Co. 14.
- Nay, gentlemen, do not quarrel about words.
- Wright, L.C.J., Trial of the Seven Bishops (1688), 12 How. St. Tr. 208.
- He says one thing, but he does another; it seems to me to be common sense to look at what is done, and not to what is said.
- Martin, B., Caine v. Coulson (1863), 1 H. & C. 764; 32 L. J. Ex. 97.
- We must judge of men's intentions by their acts, and not by expressions in letters, which are contrary to their acts.
- Lord Abinger, Chapman v. Morton (1843), 11 M. & W. 534.
- Words are transient, and vanish in the air as soon as spoken, and there can be no tenor of them . . . but when a thing is written, though every omission of a letter may not make a variance, yet, if such omission makes a word of another signification, it is fatal.
- Holt, C.J., Queen v. Drake (1706), 3 Salkeld, 225.
- Words have the power to both destroy and heal. When words are both true and kind, they can change our world.
- Buddha, disputed
- So difficult it is to show the various meanings and imperfections of words when we have nothing else but words to do it with.