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


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.
Bacon—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. L. 126.

’Tis a word that’s quickly spoken,
Which being restrained, a heart is broken.
Beaumont and Fletcher—The Spanish Curate. Act II. Sc. 5. Song.

’Twas he that ranged the words at random flung,
Pierced the fair pearls and them together strung.
Bidpai (Pilpay)—Anvar-i Suhaili. Eastwick’s trans.

You have only, when before your glass, to keep pronouncing to yourself nimini-pimini; the lips cannot help taking their plie.
General Burgoyne—The Heiress. Act III. Sc. 2.

A very great part of the mischiefs that vex this world arises from words.
Burke—Letter. (About 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. St. 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.
Carlyle—Sartor Resartus. Bk. I. Ch. 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. Sc. 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. Sc. 1.

Without knowing the force of words, it is impossible to know men.
Confucius—Analects. Bk. XX. Ch. III.

Words that weep, and tears that speak.
Cowley—The Prophet. St. 2. L. 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.
Dickens—Dombey and Son. Pt. II. Ch. V.

But words once spoke can never be recall’d.
Wentworth Dillon—Art of Poetry. L. 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. Bk. I. Myson. Ch. III.

I trade both with the living and the dead for the enrichment of our native language.
Dryden—Dedication to translation of The Æneid.

And torture one poor word ten thousand ways.
Dryden—Mac Flecknoe. L. 208.

Let thy words be few.
Ecclesiastes. V. 2.

Let no man deceive you with vain words.
Ephesians. V. 6.

Our words have wings, but fly not where we would.
George Eliot—The Spanish Gypsy. Bk. III.

What if my words
Were meant for deeds.
George Eliot—The Spanish Gypsy. Bk. III.

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.
The words you’ve bandied are sufficient;
’Tis deeds that I prefer to see.
Goethe—Faust. Vorspiel auf dem Theater. L. 214.

Gewöhnlich glaubt der Mensch, wenn er nur Worte hört,
Es müsse sich dabei doch auch was denken.
Man usually believes, if only words he hears,
That also with them goes material for thinking.
Goethe—Faust. I. 6. 230.

Es macht das Volk sich auch mit Worten Lust.
The rabble also vent their rage in words.
Goethe—Torquato Tasso. II. 2. 201.

At this every lady drew up her mouth as if going to pronounce the letter P.
Goldsmith—Letter to Robt. 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.
Heine—Religion and Philosophy. Preface. (1852).

Words and feathers the wind carries away.
Herbert—Jacula Prudentum.

Words are women, deeds are men.
Herbert—Jacula Prudentum.

For words are wise men’s counters—they do but reckon by them—but they are the money of fools.
Thomas Hobbes—The Leviathan. Pt. I. Ch. IV. Sc. 15.

Words sweet as honey from his lips distill’d.
Homer—Iliad. Bk. I. L. 332. Pope’s trans.

Winged words.
Homer—Iliad. Bk. XX. 331. Pope’s trans.

Tristia mstum
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. 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. 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 Thos. 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. Trans. 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.
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.
Locke—Essay on the Human Understanding. III. 10.

Speaking words of endearment where words of comfort availed not.
Longfellow—Evangeline. Pt. I. V. L. 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.
Lowell—A Fable for Critics.

Ein Wörtlein kann ihn fällen.
A single little word can strike him dead.
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. Pt. I. Canto II. St. VI.

How many honest words have suffered corruption since Chaucer’s days!
Thomas Middleton—No Wit, No Help, Like a Woman’s. Act II. Sc. 1.

His words,***like so many nimble and airy servitors, trip about him at command.
Milton—Apology for Smectymnuus.

With high words, that bore
Semblance of worth, not substance.
Milton—Paradise Lost. Bk. I. 528.

Yet hold it more humane, more heav’nly, first,
By winning words to conquer willing hearts,
And make persuasion do the work of fear.
Milton—Paradise Regained. Bk. I. L. 221.

And to bring in a new word by the head and shoulders, they leave out the old one.
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!
Montaigne—Essays. Bk. II. Ch. XII. (Referring to the controversies on transubstantiation—“Hoc est corpus meum.”)

Words repeated again have as another sound, so another sense.
Montaigne—Essays. Bk. III. Ch. 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.
Wm. Morris—Jason. Bk. VIII. 379.

The word impossible is not in my dictionary.
Napoleon I.

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.
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.
Pope—Essay on Criticism. L. 309.

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.
Pope—Essay on Criticism. L. 333.

Each word-catcher, that lives on syllables.
Pope—Prologue to Satires. 166.

They say***
That, putting all his words together,
’Tis three blue beans in one blue bladder.
Prior—Alma. Canto I. L. 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.
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.
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.
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!
Scott—Lord of the Isles. Canto V. St. 18.

Syllables govern the world.
John Selden—Table Talk. 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.
Cymbeline. Act IV. Sc. 2. L. 76.

What do you read, my lord?
Words, words, words.
Hamlet. Act II. Sc. 2. L. 193.

Unpack my heart with words
And fall a-cursing, like a very drab.
Hamlet. Act II. Sc. 2. L. 614.

My words fly up, my thoughts remain below:
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.
Hamlet. Act III. Sc. 3. L. 97.

Familiar in his mouth as household words.
Henry V. Act IV. Sc. 3. L. 52.

’Tis well said again;
And ’tis a kind of good deed to say well:
And yet words are no deeds.
Henry VIII. Act III. Sc. 2. L. 152.

But yesterday the word of Cæsar might
Have stood against the world; now lies he there,
And none so poor to do him reverence.
Julius Cæsar. Act III. Sc. 2. L. 123.

Zounds! I was never so bethump’d with words
Since I first call’d my brother’s father dad.
King John. Act II. Sc. 1. L. 466.

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.
Love’s Labour’s Lost. Act V. Sc. 1. L. 42. The word appears in Beaumont and Fletcher—Mad Lover. Act I. Also in Complaynt of Scotland, written before Shakespeare was born.

Taffeta phrases, silken terms precise,
Three-piled hyperboles, spruce affectation,
Figures pedantical.
Love’s Labour’s Lost. Act V. Sc. 2. L. 406.

Madam, you have bereft me of all words,
Only my blood speaks to you in my veins.
Merchant of Venice. Act III. Sc. 2. L. 177.

Here are a few of the unpleasant’st words
That ever blotted paper!
Merchant of Venice. Act III. Sc. 2. L. 254.

His very words are a fantastical banquet, just so many strange dishes.
Much Ado About Nothing. Act II. Sc. 3. L. 21.

But words are words; I never yet did hear
That the bruis’d heart was pierced through the ear.
Othello. Act I. Sc. 3. L. 218.

I know thou’rt full of love and honesty,
And weigh’st thy words before thou givest them breath.
Othello. Act III. Sc. 3. L. 118.

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.
Richard II. Act I. Sc. 3. L. 213.

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.
Richard II. Act II. Sc. 1. L. 5.

So all my best is dressing old words new.
Sonnet. LXXVI.

These words are razors to my wounded heart.
Titus Andronicus. Act I. Sc. 1. L. 314.

Words pay no debts, give her deeds.
Troilus and Cressida. Act III. Sc. 2. L. 58.

Words, words, mere words, no matter from the heart.
Troilus and Cressida. Act V. Sc. 3. L. 108.

Words are grown so false, I am loath to prove reason with them.
Twelfth Night. Act III. Sc. 1. L. 28.

A fine volley of words, gentlemen, and quickly shot off.
Two Gentlemen of Verona. Act II. Sc. 4. L. 33.

We know not what we do
When we speak words.
Shelley—Rosalind and Helen. L. 1,108.

Words are but holy as the deeds they cover.
Shelley—The Cenci. Act II. Sc. 2.

The arts Babblative and Scriblative.

The artillery of words.
Swift—Ode to Sancroft. L. 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.

I have not skill
From such a sharp and waspish word as “No”
To pluck the sting.
Henry Taylor—Philip Van Artevelde. Act I. Sc. 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.
Tennyson—In Memoriam. V.

Dictum sapienti sat est.
A word to the wise is sufficient.
Terence—Phormio. III. 3. 8. Plautus—Persa. Act IV. Sc. 7. Generally quoted “verbum sapienti satis 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.
Thackeray—Newcomes. Bk. II. Ch. XLII.

Deep in my heart subsides the infrequent word,
And there dies slowly throbbing like a wounded bird.
Francis Thompson—Her Portrait. St. 3.

Hold fast the form of sound words.
II Timothy. I. 13.

As shadows attend substances, so words follow upon things.
Archbp. Trench—Study of Wards.

Dat inania verba,
Dat sine mente sonum.
He utters empty words, he utters sound without mind.
Vergil—Æneid. 10. 639.

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 Wm. Watson—Orgy on Parnassus.

For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”
Whittier—Maud Muller. L. 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.
Wordsworth—Borderer. Act IV. Sc. 2.

Fair words enough a man shall find,
They be good cheap: they cost right nought,
Their substance is but only wind.
Sir Thos. Wyatt—Of Dissembling Words.