Abandon, v.t. [1.] To correct an erring friend or admonish a needy one. Of women the word abandoned is used in the sense of indiscreet. [2.] To confer the advantage of being rid of you. To recant.
‘‘Thank heaven, I have abandoned the follies of youth for those of
age.’’ — Chauncey Depew
Absurdity, n. [1.] A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one’s own opinion. [2.] The argument of an opponent. A belief in which one has not had the misfortune to be instructed.
Abuse, n. [1.] The goal of debate. Abuse of power is the exercise of authority in a manner unpleasant to ourselves. [2.] Unanswerable wit.
Accident, n. An inevitable occurrence due to the action of immutable natural laws.
Accomplice, n. [1.] One associated with another in a crime, having guilty knowledge and complicity, as an attorney who defends a criminal, knowing him guilty. This view of the attorney’s position in the matter has not hitherto commanded the assent of attorneys, no one having offered them a fee for assenting. [2.] Your partner in business.
Accountability, n. The mother of caution.
‘‘My accountability, bear in mind,’’
Said the Grand Vizier: ‘‘Yes, yes,’’
Said the Shah: ‘‘I do—’tis the only kind
Of ability you possess.’’
— Joram Tate
Accuracy, n. A certain uninteresting quality carefully excluded from human statements.
Achievement, n. The death of endeavor and the birth of disgust.
Acquaintance, n. A person whom we know well enough to borrow from, but not well enough to lend to. A degree of friendship called slight when its object is poor or obscure, and intimate when he is rich or famous.
Admiration, n. Our polite recognition of another’s resemblance to ourselves.
Agony, n. A superior degree of bodily disgust. The corresponding mental condition is called ‘‘all broke up.’’
Alone, adj. In bad company.
‘‘In contact, lo! the flint and steel,
By spark and flame, the thought reveal
That he the metal, she the stone,
Had cherished secretly alone.’’
— Booley Fito
Antagonist, n. The miserable scoundrel who won’t let us.
Apologize, v.i. To lay the foundation for a future offence
Applause, n. The echo of a platitude.
Beggary, n. The condition of one who has relied on the co-operation of his friends
Behavior, n. Conduct, as determined, not by principle, but by breeding. The word seems to be somewhat loosely used in Dr. Jamrach Holobom’s translation of the following lines in the Dies Iræ:
‘‘Recordare, Jesu pie,
Quod sum causa tuæ viæ.
Ne me perdas illa die.
Pray remember, sacred Savior,
Whose the thoughtless hand that gave your
Death-blow. Pardon such behavior.’’
Bore, n. A person who talks when you wish him to listen.
Brain, n. An apparatus with which we think that we think. That which distinguishes the man who is content to be something from the man who wishes to do something. A man of great wealth, or one who has been pitchforked into high station, has commonly such a headful of brain that his neighbors cannot keep their hats on. In our civilization, and under our republican form of government, brain is so highly honored that it is rewarded by exemption from the cares of office.
Candidate, n. One who by the advice of his friends reluctantly consents to sacrifice his private interests to the public good. This word comes from the same root as ‘‘candid’’ and ‘‘candy,’’ originally signifying white. It was formerly supposed to be an allusion to the Athenian method of selecting a nominee by a white ballot, but later researches of that eminent philologist, Professor Ned Townsend, show that it marks the survival of the political aspirant’s custom of giving taffy.
Censor, n. An officer of certain governments, employed to suppress the works of genius. Among the Romans the censor was an inspector of public morals, but the public morals of modern nations will not bear inspection.
Club, n. An association of men for purposes of drunkenness, gluttony, unholy hilarity, murder, sacrilege and the slandering of mothers, wives and sisters. For this definition I am indebted to several estimable ladies who have the best means of information, their husbands being members of several
Comet, n. An excuse for being out late at night and going home drunk in the morning.
Comfort, n. A state of mind produced by contemplation of a neighbor’s uneasiness.
Competitor, n. A scoundrel who desires that which we desire.
Compliment, n. A loan that bears interest.
Compulsion, n. The eloquence of power.
Conceit, n. Self-respect in one whom we dislike.
Congratulation, n. The civility of envy.
Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.
Consolation, n. The knowledge that a better man is more unfortunate than yourself.
Consult, v.t. To seek another’s approval of a course already decided on.
Contempt, n. The feeling of a prudent man for an enemy who is too formidable safely to be opposed.
Conversation, n. A fair for the display of the minor mental commodities, each exhibitor being too intent upon the arrangement of his own wares to observe those of his neighbor.
Corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.
Corpse, n. A person who manifests the highest possible degree of indifference that is consistent with a civil regard for the solicitude of others.
Coward, n. One who in a perilous emergency thinks with his legs.
Cynic, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. Hence the custom among the Scythians of plucking out a cynic’s eyes to improve his vision.
Darling, n. The bore of opposite sex in an early stage of development.
Day, n. A period of twenty-four hours, mostly misspent. This period is divided into two parts, the day proper and the night, or day improper—the former devoted to sins of business, the latter consecrated to the other sort. These two kinds of social activity overlap.
‘‘Done with the work of breathing;
done With all the world; the mad race run
Through to the end; the golden goal
Attained and found to be a hole!’’
Defame, v.t. To lie about another. To tell the truth about another.
Defenceless, adj. Unable to attack
Degradation, n. One of the stages of moral and social progress from private station to political preferment.
Deliberation, n. The act of examining one’s bread to determine which side it is buttered on.
Delusion, n. The father of a most respectable family, comprising Enthusiasm, Affection, Self-denial, Faith, Hope, Charity and many other goodly sons and daughters.
‘‘All hail, Delusion! Were it not for thee
The world turned topsy-turvy we should see;
For Vice, respectable with cleanly fancies,
Would fly abandoned Virtue’s gross advances.’’
Demagogue, n. A political opponent.
Demented, adj. The melancholy mental condition of one whose arguments we are unable to answer.
Descent, n. Going lower. Popularly used to indicate the existing generation is a peg worse than that which fathered it. Thus one Darwin justly discourses upon the superiority of the ancestral baboon in a melancholy essay, called ‘‘The Descent of Man.’’
Destiny, n. [1.] A tyrant’s authority for crime and a fool’s excuse for failure. [2.] A force alleged to control affairs, principally quoted by erring human beings to excuse their failures.
Dishonesty, n. An important element of commercial success, to which the business colleges have not as yet accorded an honorable prominence in the curriculum, but have weakly substituted penmanship. ‘‘Dishonesty is the best policy.’’
New Testament: St. Judas Iscariot, IXL.,29
Distance, n. The only thing that the rich are willing for the poor to call theirs, and keep.
Distress, n. A disease incurred by exposure to the prosperity of a friend.
Drunk, adj. Boozy, fuddled, corned, tipsy, mellow, soaken, full, groggy, tired, top-heavy, glorious, overcome, swipey, elevated, overtaken, screwed, raddled, lushy, nappy, muzzy, maudlin, pious, floppy, loppy, happy, etc.
Economy, n. Purchasing the barrel of whisky that you do not need for the price of the cow that you cannot afford.
Egotist, n. A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.
Elector, n. One who enjoys the sacred privilege of voting for the man of another man’s choice.
Emergency, n. The wise man’s opportunity and the fool’s Waterloo. A condition of things requiring one to think like a mill-stream, look like an idiot and act like an earthquake.
English, n. A language so haughty and reserved that few writers succeed in getting on terms of familiarity with it.
Enthusiasm, n. A distemper of youth, curable by small doses of repentance in connection with outward applications of experience. Byron, who recovered long enough to call it ‘‘entuzy-muzy,’’ had a relapse which carried him off — to Missolonghi.
Err, v.i. To believe or act in a way contrary to my beliefs and actions.
Evolution, n. The process by which the higher organisms are gradually developed from the lower, as Man from the Assisted Immigrant, the OfficeHolder from the Ward Boss, the Thief from the Office-Holder, etc.
Expectation, n. The state or condition of mind which in the procession of human emotions is preceded by hope and followed by despair.
Experience, n. The wisdom that enables us to recognize as an undesirable old acquaintance the folly that we have already embraced.
‘‘To one who, journeying through night and fog,
Is mired neck-deep in an unwholesome bog,
Experience, like the rising of the dawn,
Reveals the path that he should not have gone.’’
— Joel Frad Bink
Expostulation, n. One of the many methods by which fools prefer to lose their friends.
Faith, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.
Fanatic, n. One who overestimates the importance of convictions and undervalues the comfort of an existence free from the impact of addled eggs and dead cats upon the human periphery.
Fool, n. A person who pervades the domain of intellectual speculation and fuses himself through the channels of moral activity. He is omnific, omniform, omnipercipient, omniscient, omnipotent. He it was who invented letters, printing, the railroad, the steamboat, the telegraph, the platitude and the circle of the sciences. He created patriotism and taught the nations war— founded theology, philosophy, law, medicine and Chicago. He established monarchical and republican government. He is from everlasting to everlasting—such as creation’s dawn beheld he fooleth now. In the morning of time he sang upon primitive hills, and in the noonday of existence headed the procession of being. His grandmotherly hand has warmly tucked-in the set sun of civilization, and in the twilight he prepares Man’s evening meal of milk-and-morality and turns down the covers of the universal grave. And after the rest of us shall have retired for the night of eternal oblivion he will sit up to write a history of human civilization.
Forbidden, pp. Invested with a new and irresistible charm.
Foreigner, n. A villain regarded with various and varying degrees of toleration, according to his conformity to the eternal standard of our conceit and the shifting one of our interests. Among the Romans all foreigners were called barbarians because most of the tribes with which the Romans had acquaintance were bearded. The term was merely descriptive, having nothing of reproach in it: Roman disparagement was generally more frankly expressed with a spear. The descendants of the barbarians—the modern barbers—have seen fit, however, to retort with the saw-toothed razor.
Forgetfulness, n. A gift of God bestowed upon debtors in compensation for their destitution of conscience.
Forgiveness, n. A stratagem to throw an offender off his guard and catch him red-handed in his next offense.
Fraud, n. The life of commerce, the soul of religion, the bait of courtship and the basis of political power.
Good, adj. Sensible, madam, to the worth of this present writer. Alive, sir, to the advantages of letting him alone.
Happiness, n. An agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another.
Hatred, n. A sentiment appropriate to the occasion of another’s superiority.
Home, n. The place of last resort — open all night.
Humanity, n. The human race, collectively, exclusive of the anthropoid poets.
Idiot, n. A member of a large and powerful tribe whose influence in human affairs has always been dominant and controlling. The Idiot’s activity is not confined to any special field of thought or action, but ‘‘pervades and regulates the whole.’’ He has the last word in everything; his decision is unappealable. He sets the fashions of opinion and taste, dictates the limitations of speech and circumscribes conduct with a dead-line.
Immigrant, n. An unenlightened person who thinks one country better than another.
Impenitence, n. A state of mind intermediate in point of time between sin and punishment.
Intimacy, n. A relation into which fools are providentially drawn for their mutual destruction.
Joy, n. An emotion variously excited, but in its highest degree arising from the contemplation of grief in another.
Laziness, n. Unwarranted repose of manner in a person of low degree.
Lecturer, n. One with his hand in your pocket, his tongue in your ear and his faith in your patience.
Libertarian, n. One who is compelled by the evidence to believe in free-will, and whose will is therefore free to reject that doctrine.
Liberty, n. One of Imagination’s most precious possessions.
Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage or by removal of the patient from the influences under which he incurred the disorder. This disease, like caries and many other ailments, is prevalent only among civilized races living under artificial conditions; barbarous nations breathing pure air and eating simple food enjoy immunity from its ravages. It is sometimes fatal, but more frequently to the physician than to the patient.
Mad, adj. Affected with a high degree of intellectual independence; not conforming to standards of thought, speech and action derived by the conformants from study of themselves; at odds with the majority; in short, unusual. It is noteworthy that persons are pronounced mad by officials destitute of evidence that themselves are sane. For illustration, this present (and illustrious) lexicographer is no firmer in the faith of his own sanity than is any inmate of any madhouse in the land; yet for aught he knows to the contrary, instead of the lofty occupation that seems to him to be engaging his powers he may really be beating his hands against the window bars of an asylum and declaring himself Noah Webster, to the innocent delight of many thoughtless spectators.
Mercy, n. An attribute beloved of detected offenders.
Mind, n. A mysterious form of matter secreted by the brain. Its chief activity consists in the endeavor to ascertain its own nature, the futility of the attempt being due to the fact that it has nothing but itself to know itself with. From the Latin mens, a fact unknown to that honest shoe-seller, who, observing that his learned competitor over the way had displayed the motto ‘‘Mens conscia recti,’’ emblazoned his own shop front with the words ‘‘Men’s, women’s and children’s conscia recti.’’
Mine, adj. Belonging to me if I can hold or seize it.
Miracle, n. An act or event out of the order of nature and unaccountable, as beating a normal hand of four kings and an ace with four aces and a king.
Misfortune, n. The kind of fortune that never misses.
Mortality, n. The part of immortality that we know about.
Neighbor, n. One whom we are commanded to love as ourselves, and who does all he knows how to make us disobedient.
Nonsense, n. The objections that are urged against this excellent dictionary.
Obstinacy, n. Perverted firmness. Persistence in the objectionable. Constancy to the opposite view. Another’s indirect affirmation of one’s fallibility.
Omen, n. A sign that something will happen if nothing happens.
Opportunity, n. A favorable occasion for grasping a disappointment.
Optimism, n. The doctrine, or belief, that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly, everything good, especially the bad, and everything right that is wrong. It is held with greatest tenacity by those most accustomed to the mischance of falling into adversity, and is most acceptably expounded with the grin that apes a smile. Being a blind faith, it is inaccessible to the light of disproof—an intellectual disorder, yielding to no treatment but death. It is hereditary, but fortunately not contagious.
Optimist, n. A proponent of the doctrine that black is white.
Past, n. That part of Eternity with some small fraction of which we have a slight and regrettable acquaintance. A moving line called the Present parts it from an imaginary period known as the Future. These two grand divisions of Eternity, of which the one is continually effacing the other, are entirely unlike. The one is dark with sorrow and disappointment, the other bright with prosperity and joy. The Past is the region of sobs, the Future is the realm of song. In the one crouches Memory, clad in sackcloth and ashes, mumbling penitential prayer; in the sunshine of the other Hope flies with a free wing, beckoning to temples of success and bowers of ease. Yet the Past is the Future of yesterday, the Future is the Past of to-morrow. They are one—the knowledge and the dream.
Patience, n. A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.
Pessimism, n. A philosophy forced upon the convictions of the observer by the disheartening prevalence of the optimist with his scarecrow hope and his unsightly smile.
Philosophy, n. A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.
Please, v. To lay the foundation for a superstructure of imposition.
Promise, n. A form of incantation to conjure up a hope that is to be exorcised later by inattention.
Read, v. To get the sense of something written, if it has any. Commonly,it has not.
Reality, n. The dream of a mad philosopher. That which would remain in the cupel if one should assay a phantom. The nucleus of a vacuum.
Reason, v.i. To weigh probabilities in the scales of desire.
Rebel, n. A proponent of a new misrule who has failed to establish it.
Reform, n. A thing that mostly satisfies reformers opposed to reformation.
Rubbish, n. Worthless matter, such as the religions, philosophies, literatures, arts and sciences of the tribes infesting the regions lying due south from Boreaplas.
Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited.
Self-esteem, n. An erroneous appraisement.
Self-evident, adj. Evident to one’s self and to nobody else.
Selfish, adj. Devoid of consideration for the selfishness of others.
Story, n. A narrative, commonly untrue. The truth of the stories here following has, however, not been successfully impeached.
Talk, v.t. To commit an indiscretion without temptation, from an impulse without purpose.
Telephone, n. An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance.
Truth, n. An ingenious compound of desirability and appearance. Discovery of truth is the sole purpose of philosophy, which is the most ancient occupation of the human mind and has a fair prospect of existing with increasing activity to the end of time.
Understanding, n. A cerebral secretion that enables one having it to know a house from a horse by the roof on the house. Its nature and laws have been exhaustively expounded by Locke, who rode a house, and Kant, who lived in a horse.
Virtues, n.pl. Certain abstentions.
The Devil’s Dictionary (1911) (also known as The Cynic’s Word Book (1906)) by Ambrose Bierce The full book is available here:
http://www.dankunlimited.com/uno_pound_sharing/Know_files/-The-Unabridged-Devil-Dictionary.pdfhttp://www.dankunlimited.com/uno_pound_sharing/Know_files/-The-Unabridged-Devil-Dictionary.pdftence in the objectionable. Constancy to the opposite view. Another’s indirect affirmation of one’s fallibility.
Omen, n. A sign that something will happen if nothing happens.
Opportunity, n. A favorable occasion for grasping a disappointment.
Optimism, n. The doctrine, or belief, that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly, everything good, especially the bad, and everything right