Hoyt & Roberts, comps. Hoyt’s New Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations. 1922.


I have but nine-pence in ready money, but I can draw for a thousand pounds.
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.
Bacon—Essays. Civil and Moral. Of Discourse. No. 32.

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.
Bacon—Essays. Of Discourse.

Though I say’t that should not say’t.
Beaumont and Fletcher—Wit at Several Weapons. Act II. Sc. 2.

Speak boldly, and speak truly, shame the devil.
Beaumont and Fletcher—Wit Without Money. Act IV. Sc. 4.

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. Bk. III. 34. (“Retournous” for “Revenons.”)

Tout ce qu’on dit de trop est fade et rebutant.
That which is repeated too often becomes insipid and tedious.
Boileau—L’Art Poétique. I. 61.

Let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace.
Book of Common Prayer. Solemnization of Matrimony.

For brevity is very good,
Where we are, or are not understood.
Butler—Hudibras. Pt. I. Canto I. L. 669.

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.
Butler—The Modern Politician.

His speech was a fine sample, on the whole,
Of rhetoric, which the learn’d call “rigmarole.”
Byron—Don Juan. Canto I. St. 174.

Le cœur sent rarement ce que la bouche exprime.
The heart seldom feels what the mouth expresses.
Campistron—Pompeia. XI. 5.

Speech is silvern, silence is golden.
Carlyle—A Swiss Inscription. Quoted in Sartor Resartus. Bk. III. Ch. 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.
Carlyle—Essays. Biography.

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. Bk. IV. 26.

He mouths a sentence as curs mouth a bone.
Churchill—The Rosiad. L. 322.

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.

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—Purgatorio. XI. 118.
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.
Dickens—A Tale of Two Cities. Bk. I. Ch. II.

Abstruse and mystic thoughts you must express
With painful care, but seeming easiness;
For truth shines brightest thro’ the plainest dress.
Wentworth Dillon—Essay on Translated Verse. L. 216.

I will sit down now, but the time will come when you will hear me.
Benj. Disraeli—Maiden Speech in the House of Commons. (1837).

A sophistical rhetorician, inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity.
Benj. Disraeli—Speech at the Riding School. London, July 27, 1878. (Of Gladstone.)

A series of congratulatory regrets.
Benj. Disraeli—July 30, 1878. In reference to Lord Harrington’s resolution on the Berlin Treaty.

The hare-brained chatter of irresponsible frivolity.
Benj. Disraeli—Speech at Guildhall. London, November 9, 1878.

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. Ch. IV. P. 97.

Speech is but broken light upon the depth
Of the unspoken.
George Eliot—The Spanish Gypsy. Bk. I.

O that grave speech would cumber our quick souls,
Like bells that waste the moments with their loudness.
George Eliot—The Spanish Gypsy. Bk. III.

Speech is better than silence; silence is better than speech.
Emerson—Essay on Nominalist and Realist.

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.”
Fournier—L’Esprit dans l’Histoire.

Mir wird von alledem so dumm,
Als ging ’mir ein Mühlrad im Kopf herum.
I feel as stupid, from all you’ve said
As if a mill-wheel whirled in my head.
Goethe—Faust. Act I. Schulerszene.

Du sprichst ein grosses Wort gelassen aus.
Thou speakest a word of great moment calmly.
Goethe—Iphigenia auf Tauris. I. 3. 88. 1.

The true use of speech is not so much to express our wants as to conceal them.
Goldsmith—The Bee. No. 3.

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.
Wm. Wallace Harney—Adonais.

Know when to speake; for many times it brings
Danger to give the best advice to kings.
Herrick—Hesperides. Caution in Councell.

In man speaks God.
Hesiod—Works and Days.

These authors do not avail themselves of the invention of letters for the purpose of conveying, but of concealing their ideas.
Lord Holland—Life of Lope de Vega.

I love to hear thine earnest voice,
Wherever thou art hid.**
Thou say’st an undisputed thing
In such a solemn way.
Holmes—To an Insect.

The flowering moments of the mind
Drop half their petals in our speech.
Holmes—To My Readers. St. 11.

His speech flowed from his tongue sweeter than honey.
Homer—Iliad. Bk. I. 124.

He spake, and into every heart his words
Carried new strength and courage.
Homer—Iliad. Bk. V. L. 586. Bryant’s trans.

He, from whose lips divine persuasion flows.
Homer—Iliad. Bk. VII. L. 143. Pope’s trans.

For that man is detested by me as the gates of hell, whose outward words conceal his inmost thoughts.
Homer—Iliad. IX. 312.

Persuasive speech, and more persuasive sighs,
Silence that spoke, and eloquence of eyes.
Homer—Iliad. Bk. XIV. L. 251. Pope’s trans.

And endless are the modes of speech, and far
Extends from side to side the field of words.
Homer—Iliad. Bk. XX. L. 315. Bryant’s trans.

Brevis esse laboro, obscurus fio.
In laboring to be concise, I become obscure.
Horace—Ars Poetica. XXV.

I am a man of unclean lips.
Isaiah. VI. 5.

That fellow would vulgarize the day of judgment.
Douglas Jerrold—A Comic Author.

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.
G. W. Langford—Speak Gently.

It is never so difficult to speak as when we are ashamed of our silence.
La Rochefoucauld—Maxims. No. 178.

L’allégorie habite un palais diaphane.
Allegory dwells in a transparent palace.
Lemierre—Peinture. III.

Speech was made to open man to man, and not to hide him; to promote commerce, and not betray it.
David Lloyd—State Worthies. Vol. I. P. 503. Whitworth’s Ed. (1665).

In general those who nothing have to say
Contrive to spend the longest time in doing it.
Lowell—To Charles Eliot Norton.

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.

Though his tongue
Dropp’d manna, and could make the worse appear
The better reason, to perplex and dash
Maturest counsels.
Milton—Paradise Lost. Bk. II. L. 112.

When Adam first of men,
To first of women Eve, thus moving speech,
Turn’d him all ear to hear new utterance flow.
Milton—Paradise Lost. Bk. IV. L. 408.

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. 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.
W. E. Norris—Thirlby Hall. Vol. I. P. 315.

Barbarus hic ego sum, quia non intelligor ulli.
I am a barbarian here, because I am not understood by anyone.
Ovid—Tristia. Bk. 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.
Pascal—Pensées. 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.
Plato. See Plutarch—Life of Pericles.

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.
Pliny the Younger—Epistles. Bk. I. 20.

Abstruse questions must have abstruse answers.
Saying in Plutarch—Life of Alexander.

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.
Plutarch—Life of Themistocles.

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.
Pope—Dunciad. Bk. IV. L. 542.

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.

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.
Rabelais—Pantagruel. Bk. V. Ch. XXVIII.

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?
Schiller—Piccolomini. I. 2. 160.

Just at the age ’twixt boy and youth,
When thought is speech, and speech is truth.
Scott—Marmion. Canto II. Introduction.

Talis hominibus est oratio qualis vita.
Men’s conversation is like their life.
Seneca—Epistolæ Ad Lucilium. 114.

I had a thing to say,
But I will fit it with some better time.
King John. Act III. Sc. 3. L. 25.

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.
Love’s Labour’s Lost. Act V. Sc. 2. L. 256.

A heavy heart bears not a humble tongue.
Love’s Labour’s Lost. Act V. Sc. 2. L. 747.

It may be right; but you are i’ the wrong
To speak before your time.
Measure for Measure. Act V. Sc. 1. L. 86.

Here will be an old abusing of God’s patience and the king’s English.
Merry Wives of Windsor. Act I. Sc. 4. L. 4.

She speaks poniards, and every word stabs.
Much Ado About Nothing. Act II. Sc. 1. L. 255.

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.
Othello. Act I. Sc. 3. L. 81.

Your fair discourse hath been as sugar,
Making the hard way sweet and delectable.
Richard II. Act II. Sc. 3. L. 6.

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.
Twelfth Night. Act I. Sc. 5. L. 183.

No one minds what Jeffrey says—it is not more than a week ago that I heard him speak disrespectfully of the equator.
Sydney Smith. Lady Holland’s Memoir. Vol. I.

God giveth speech to all, song to the few.
Walter C. Smith—Editorial. L. 15. Olrig Grange. Bk. I.

Speech was given to the ordinary sort of men, whereby to communicate their mind; but to wise men, whereby to conceal it.
Bishop South—Sermon. April 30, 1676.

Sæpius locutum, nunquam me tacuisse pœnitet.
I have often regretted having spoken, never having kept silent.

Sermo animi est imago; qualis vir, talis et oratio est.
Conversation is the image of the mind; as the man, so is his speech.

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!
Thackeray—Roundabout Papers. On Two Papers I intended to write.

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.
Francis Thompson—Her Portrait.

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.

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. Ch. CLXIII.

Choice word and measured phrase, above the reach
Of ordinary men.
Wordsworth—Resolution and Independence. St. 14.

Where nature’s end of language is declined,
And men talk only to conceal the mind.
Young—Love of Fame. Satire II. L. 207. Same idea in St. Augustine—Enchiridion ad Laurentium. Homer—Iliad. IX. 313. Traced from Goldsmith to Butler; Young to South.