The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations

The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations

4.0 1
by Elizabeth Knowles

View All Available Formats & Editions

Yes, Oscar Wilde's last words, addressed to his ugly wallpaper, were "One of us has to go." Yes, the official advice on how to respond to a local nuclear attack was to "duck and cover." And no, Kirk never said "Beam me up, Scotty." Readers are likely to be both shaken and stirred by this collection of 20,000 quotations, generated by both the intentionally and


Yes, Oscar Wilde's last words, addressed to his ugly wallpaper, were "One of us has to go." Yes, the official advice on how to respond to a local nuclear attack was to "duck and cover." And no, Kirk never said "Beam me up, Scotty." Readers are likely to be both shaken and stirred by this collection of 20,000 quotations, generated by both the intentionally and accidentally brilliant. Each entry includes the briefest of biographies, provenance, and (when necessary) context. Especially helpful are the index based on key words and phrases, and a series of thematic listings such as film titles, advertising slogans, prayers, songs, telegrams and toasts. This new edition includes some of the latest musings by leaders of governments both active and deposed, and some truly startling pronouncements by people who are said to be the brightest lights of pop culture, that is, until they speak without a script. The only apparent downside to this volume is that one can browse, and laugh, for hours and hours. Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR

Editorial Reviews
The new, fifth edition of The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations offers over 20,000 quotations (over 2,000 of them new to this edition) from more than 3,000 sources. This classic has been brought fully up-to-date while maintaining its core of classical Greek and Latin literature. The strength of the Oxford is its special categories: separate sections covering such things as famous misquotations, film lines, last words, and advertising slogans. Special attention is given to the sacred texts of the world, such as the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, the Koran, and the Bible. Comprehensive cross-referencing adds significant depth to the book as well. The organization is alphabetical by author. Indices: Keyword, Thematic.
Library Journal
In one of his elegies, Rilke proclaimed, "Who has not sat nervously before the stage curtain of his heart." In a short story, Anton Chekhov wrote, "If a lot of cures are suggested for a disease, it means that the disease is incurable." This is but a sampling of the kinds of quotations one finds in this newly revised Oxford classic. With its more than 20,000 quotations, organized alphabetically by author's last name, the dictionary will both educate and entertain anyone who appreciates other people's wisdom or, alternately, enjoys discovering statements that are downright dumb (e.g., Bill Clinton's comment about smoking pot). Since the publication of the fifth edition in 1999, so much has been said by such omnipresent figures as Saddam Hussein, George W. Bush, and Martha Stewart that libraries will definitely want an update, though the hundreds of new entries reach back to older times as well. Mirela Roncevic Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"With its more than 20,000 quotations, organized alphabetically by author's last name, the dictionary will both educate and entertain anybody who appreciates other people's wisdom or, alternatively, enjoys discovering statements that are downright dumb."—Library Journal

"Now more than a half-century old, The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations... arrives in a freshly updated sixth edition. The old warhorse sources are still there - Shakespeare, the Bible, Samuel Johnson and of course Anonymous. They are now joined by George W. Bush (three quotes dealing with terrorism and the "axis of evil" line), Ari Fleischer and Johnny Cash, among others. A useful book for anyone who writes or has to make speeches."—Houston Chronicle

"As well as providing fodder for toasts, letters to the editor, and any personal notes that require bons mots, The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations presents the spirit of the individuals and works quoted in a way that even the liveliest encyclopedia cannot. This is also the most entertaining reference book for simply browsing"—Martha Stewart Living

Product Details

Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
9.30(w) x 6.80(h) x 2.40(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Diane Abbott 1953- British Labour politician

1 Being an MP is the sort of job all working-class parents want for their children—clean, indoors and no heavy lifting. in Independent 18 January 1994

George Abbott 1887-1995 American director, producer, and dramatist

2 If you want to be adored by your peers and have standing ovations wherever you go—live to be over ninety. in The Times 2 February 1995; obituary

Peter Abelard 1079-1142 French scholar, theologian, and philosopher, lover of Héloise

3 O quanta qualia suni illa sabbata, Quae semper celebrat superna curia. O what their joy and glory must be, Those endless sabbaths the blessed ones see! Hymnarius Paraclitensis bk. 1, pars altera `Hymni Diurni' no. 29 `Sabbato. Ad Vesperas' (translated by J. M. Neale, 1854)

4 Non enim facile de his quos plurimum diligimus turpitudinem suspicamur.

For we do not easily expect evil of those whom we love most. Historia Calamitatum Mearum ch. 6

Dannie Abse 1923- Welsh-born doctor and poet

5 Are all men in disguise except those crying? `Encounter at a greyhound bus station' (1986)

6 I know the colour rose, and it is lovely, But not when it ripens in a tumour; And healing greens, leaves and grass, sospringlike, In limbs that fester are not springlike. `Pathology of Colours' (1968)

7 So in the simple blessing of a rainbow, In the bevelled edge of a sunlit mirror, I have seen visible, Death's artifact Like a soldier's ribbon on a tunic tacked. `Pathology of Colours' (1968)

Accius 170-c.86 BC Latin poet and dramatist

8 Oderint, dum metuant. Let them hate, so long as they fear. from Atreus, in Seneca Dialogues bks. 3-5 De Ira bk. 1, sect. 20, subsect. 4

Goodman Ace 1899-1982 American humorist

9 TV—a clever contraction derived from the words Terrible Vaudeville ... we call it a medium because nothing's well done. letter to Groucho Marx, in The Groucho Letters (1967)

Chinua Achebe 1930-
Nigerian novelist

10 In such a regime, I say, you died a good death if your life had inspired someone to come forward and shoot your murderer in the chest—without asking to be paid. A Man of the People (1966)

Dean Acheson 1893-1971 American politician

11 I will undoubtedly have to seek what is happily known as gainful employment, which I am glad to say does not describe holding public office. in Time 22 December 1952

12 Great Britain has lost an empire and has not yet found a role. speech at the Military Academy, West Point, 5 December 1962, in Vital Speeches 1 January 1963

13 The first requirement of a statesman is that he be dull. in Observer 21 June 1970

14 A memorandum is written not to inform the reader but to protect the writer. in Wall Street Journal 8 September 1977

Lord Acton 1834-1902 British historian

15 Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end. The History of Freedom in Antiquity (1907), lecture delivered 26 February 1877

16 Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, 3 April 1887, in Louise Creighton Life and Letters of Mandell Creighton (1904) vol. 1, ch. 13; cf. Pitt 576:22

17 Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority. letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, 3 April 1887

Abigail Adams 1744-1818 American letter writer, wife of John Adams and mother of John Quincy Adams

18 In the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would remember the ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they could. letter to John Adams, 31 March 1776, in Butterfield et al. (eds.) The Book of Abigail and John Adams (1975); cf. Defoe 255:8

19 It is really mortifying, sir, when a woman possessed of a common share of understanding considers the difference of education between the male and female sex, even in those families where education is attended to ... Nay why should your sex wish for such a disparity in those whom they one day intend for companions and associates. Pardon me, sir, if I cannot help sometimes suspecting that this neglect arises in some measure from an ungenerous jealousy of rivals near the throne. letter to John Thaxter, 15 February 1778, in Adams Family Correspondence vol. 2 (1963)

1 These are times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed ... Great necessities call out great virtues. letter to John Quincy Adams, 19 January 1780

2 Patriotism in the female sex is the most disinterested of all virtues. Excluded from honours and from offices, we cannot attach ourselves to the State or Government from having held a place of eminence ... Yet all history and every age exhibit instances of patriotic virtue in the female sex; which considering our situation equals the most heroic of yours. letter to John Adams, 17 June 1782

Charles Francis Adams 1807-86
American lawyer and diplomat

3 It would be superfluous in me to point out to your lordship that this is war. of the situation in the United States during the American Civil War dispatch to Earl Russell, 5 September 1863, in C. F. Adams Charles Francis Adams (1900) ch. 17

Douglas Adams 1952- English science fiction writer

4 The Answer to the Great Question Of ... Life, the Universe and Everything ... [is] Forty-two. The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979) ch. 27

Frank Adams and Will M. Hough

5 I wonder who's kissing her now. title of song (1909)

Franklin P. Adams 1881-1960 American journalist and humorist

6 When the political columnists say `Every thinking man' they mean themselves, and when candidates appeal to `Every intelligent voter' they mean everybody who is going to vote for them. Nods and Becks (1944)

7 Years ago we discovered the exact point, the dead centre of middle age. It occurs when you are too young to take up golf and too old to rush up to the net. Nods and Becks (1944)

8 Elections are won by men and women chiefly because most people vote against somebody rather than for somebody. Nods and Becks (1944); cf. Fields 310:22

Gerry Adams 1948- Northern Irish politician; President of Sinn Féin

9 It might or might not be right to kill, but sometimes it is necessary. view of the protagonist in a short story; Before the Dawn (1996)

10 We want him to be the last British Prime Minister with jurisdiction in Ireland. of Tony Blair in Irish Times 18 October 1997

11 Peace cannot be built on exclusion. That has been the price of the past 30 years. in Daily Telegraph II April 1998

12 Well done, David. at the Sinn Féin annual conference, on hearing that the Ulster Unionist Council had given its support to David Trimble and the Northern Ireland peace agreement in Independent on Sunday 19 April 1998

Henry Brooks Adams 1838-1918 American man of letters

13 Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, has
always been the systematic organization of hatreds.
The Education of Henry Adams (1907) ch. 1

14 Accident counts for much in companionship as in marriage.

The Education of Henry Adams (1907) ch. 4; cf. Ustinov 788:22

15 Women have, commonly, a very positive moral sense; that which they will, is right; that which they reject, is wrong; and their will, in most cases, ends by settling the moral. The Education of Henry Adams (1907) ch. 6

16 All experience is an arch to build upon. The Education of Henry Adams (1907) ch. 6

17 A friend in power is a friend lost. The Education of Henry Adams (1907) ch. 7

18 [Charles] Sumner's mind had reached the calm of water which receives and reflects images without absorbing them; it contained nothing but itself. The Education of Henry Adams (1907) ch. 13

19 Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit. The Education of Henry Adams (1907) ch. 16

20 A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. The Education of Henry Adams (1907) ch. 20

21 Morality is a private and costly luxury. The Education of Henry Adams (1907) ch. 22

22 Practical politics consists in ignoring facts. The Education of Henry Adams (1907) ch. 22

23 Nothing in education is so astonishing as the amount of ignorance it accumulates in the form of inert facts. The Education of Henry Adams (1907) ch. 25

24 Symbol or energy, the Virgin had acted as the greatest force the Western world had ever felt, and had drawn man's activities to herself more strongly than any other power, natural or supernatural, had ever done. The Education of Henry Adams (1907) ch. 25

1 Modern politics is, at bottom, a struggle not of men but of forces. The Education of Henry Adams (1907) ch. 28

2 No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous. The Education of Henry Adams (1907) ch. 31

John Adams 1735-1826 American statesman, 2nd President of the US; husband of Abigail Adams and father of John Quincy Adams see also Last Wards 457:12

3 The law, in all vicissitudes of government ... will preserve a steady undeviating course; it will not bend to the uncertain wishes, imaginations, and wanton tempers of men ... On the one hand it is inexorable to the cries of the prisoners; on the other it is deaf, deaf as an adder to the clamours of the populace. argument in defence of the British soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials, 4 December 1770; cf. Sidney 718:5

4 There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty. Notes for an Oration at Braintree (Spring 1772), in Diary and Autobiography of John Adams vol. 2 (1960)

5 A government of laws, and not of men. in Boston Gazette (1774) no. 7, `Novanglus' papers; later incorporated in the Massachusetts Constitution (1780); cf. Ford 319:13

6 I agree with you that in politics the middle way is none at all. letter to Horatio Gates, 23 March 1776, in R. ]. Taylor (ed.) Papers of John Adams 3rd series (1979) vol. 4

7 You bid me burn your letters. But I must forget you first. letter to Abigail Adams, 28 April 1776

8 Yesterday, the greatest question was decided which ever was debated in America, and a greater perhaps never was nor will be decided among men. A resolution was passed without one dissenting colony, `that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.' letter to Abigail Adams, 3 July 1776

9 My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived. of the vice-presidency letter to Abigail Adams, 19 December 1793

10 You and I ought not to die before we have explained ourselves to each other. letter to Thomas Jefferson, 15 July 1813, in L. J. Cappon (ed.) The Adams-Jefferson Letters (1959) vol. 2

11 The fundamental article of my political creed is that despotism, or unlimited sovereignty, or absolute power, is the same in a majority of a popular assembly, an aristocratic council, an oligarchical junto, and a single emperor. letter to Thomas Jefferson, 13 November 1815, in P. Wilstach (ed.) Correspondence of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (1925)

12 Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right ... and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean of the characters and conduct of their rulers. A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law (1765), in M. J. Kline (ed.) Papers of John Adams vol. 1 (1977)

13 The jaws of power are always opened to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing. A Dissertation on the Canon and the Feudal Law (1765), in Charles Francis Adams (ed.) Works of John Adams (1851) vol. 3

14 The happiness of society is the end of government. Thoughts on Government (1776)

15 Fear is the foundation of most governments.
Thoughts on Government (1776)

John Quincy Adams 1767-1848 American statesman, 6th President of the US; son of Abigail Adams and John Adams

16 Think of your forefathers! Think of your posterity!
Oration at Plymouth 22 December 1802

17 Fiat justitia, pereat coelum [Let justice be done, though heaven fall]. My toast would be, may our country be always successful, but whether successful or otherwise, always right. letter to John Adams, 1 August 1816, in A. Koch and W. Peden (eds.) The Selected Writings of John and John Quincy Adams (1946); cf. Decatur 254:10, Mansfield 494:10, Mottoes 535:8, Schurz 649:14, Watson 805:1

Samuel Adams 1722-1803 American revolutionary leader

18 What a glorious morning is this. on hearing gunfire at Lexington, 19 April 1775; traditionally quoted as, `What a glorious morning for America' J. K. Hosmer Samuel Adams (1886) ch. 19

19 A nation of shopkeepers are very seldom so disinterested. Oration in Philadelphia 1 August 1776 (the authenticity of this publication is doubtful); cf. Napoleon 539:4, Smith 723:10

20 We cannot make events. Our business is wisely to improve them ... Mankind are governed more by their feelings than by reason. Events which excite those feelings will produce wonderful effects. J. N. Rakove The Beginnings of National Politics (1979) ch. 5

Sarah Flower Adams 1805-48 English hymn-writer

21 Nearer, my God, to thee, Nearer to thee! E'en though it be a cross That raiseth me: Still all my song would be, `Nearer, my God, to thee, Nearer to thee!' `Nearer My God to Thee' in W. G. Fox Hymns and Anthems (1841)

Harold Adamson 1906-80
American songwriter

1 Comin' in on a wing and a pray'r. words derived from the contemporary comment of a war pilot, speaking from a disabled plane to ground control title of song (1943)

Jane Addams 1860-1935 American social worker

2 The new growth in the plant swelling against the sheath, which at the same time imprisons and protects it, must still be the truest type of progress. Democracy and Social Ethics (1907) `Filial Relations'

3 A city is in many respects a great business corporation, but in other respects it is enlarged housekeeping ... May we not say that city housekeeping has failed partly because women, the traditional housekeepers, have not been consulted as to its multiform activities? Newer Ideals of Peace (1907) `Utilization of Women in City Government'

4 Perhaps I may record here my protest against the efforts, so often made, to shield children and young people from all that has to do with death and sorrow, to give them a good time at all hazards on the assumption that the ills of life will come soon enough. Young people themselves often resent this attitude on the part of their elders; they feel set aside and belittled as if they were denied the common human experiences. Twenty Years at Hull House (1910)


Meet the Author

Elizabeth Knowles is a historical lexicographer who worked on the 4th edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1993) and was Editor of the 5th, 6th, and 7th editions of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (1999, 2004, 2009). Her other editorial credits include the Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations (3rd edition, 2007), What They Didn't Say: A Book of Misquotations (2006), and the Little Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs (2009). She is a contributor to The History of Oxford University Press (2013).

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Oxford Dictionary of Quotations 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago