The HyperTexts

The Best Epigrams

The following epigrams are among the best brief, succinct sayings of all time, in my opinion.Michael R. Burch

The Top Ten Epigrams of All Time

In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.—Albert Camus
It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.—Eleanor Roosevelt
If you can't be a good example, you'll just have to be a horrible warning.—Catherine the Great
If life were fair, Elvis would be alive and his impersonators would be dead.—Johnny Carson
Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.—Oscar Wilde
To err is human, but it feels divine!—Mae West
An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.—Mohandas Gandhi
For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.—Virginia Woolf
Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.—John F. Kennedy
Improve yourself by other men's writings, thus attaining more easily what they gained through great difficulty.—Socrates (translation by Michael R. Burch)

Four Wonderfully Moving, Poetic Epigrams

The births of all things are weak and tender, therefore we should have our eyes intent on beginnings.—Michel de Montaigne
Each has his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by heart, and his friends can only read the title.—Virginia Woolf
We shall find peace. We shall hear the angels sing. We shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.—Anton Chekov
It takes courage to push yourself to places that you have never been before, to test your limits, to break through barriers. And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.—Ana´s Nin

Three Stellar Epigrammatic Poems

Eros harrows my heart:
wild winds sweeping desolate mountains,
leveling oaks.
Sappho, fragment 42, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Little strokes
fell great oaks.
Ben Franklin

I am his Highness' dog at Kew;
pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?
Alexander Pope

More Outstanding Examples of Epigrams

Never tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon.—Unknown
The greater danger lies not in aiming too high and falling short, but in aiming too low and hitting the mark.—Michelangelo
I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.—Michelangelo
Faith in oneself is the best and safest course.—Michelangelo
Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.—Amelia Earhart 
Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.—Will Rogers
It is better to be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.—Abraham Lincoln
I don't approve of political jokes; I have seen too many of them get elected.—Jon Stewart
Politics is the second-oldest profession; it bears a very close resemblance to the first.—Ronald Reagan
My choices in life were to be a piano-player in a whorehouse or a politician. And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference.—Harry S. Truman
I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it's hell.—"Give 'Em Hell" Harry S. Truman
Comedy is merely tragedy happening to someone else.—W. C. Fields
Men always want to be a woman's first love; women like to be a man's last romance.—Oscar Wilde
The problem with most women is that they get all excited about nothing, then marry him.—Cher
My husband and I divorced over religious differences. He thought he was God. I didn't.—Unknown
Grace Kelly did everything Fred Astaire did: walking backwards, in high heels!—Unknown
I'm not offended by dumb blonde jokes because I'm not dumb, and also I'm not blonde.—Dolly Parton
Foreign aid is taking money from the poor people of a rich country and giving it to the rich people of a poor country.—Ron Paul
When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.—Sinclair Lewis
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.—Voltaire
Live simply, so that others may simply live.—Mother Teresa
This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet. Let us resolve that we will not leave our children a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands.—President Barack Obama

Sports Shorts

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
Your hands can't hit what your eyes can't see.
Muhammad Ali

It ain't bragging if you can back it up.—Muhammad Ali
It's lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself.—Muhammad Ali
Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you.—Satchel Paige
All hockey players are bilingual. They know English and profanity.—Gordie Howe
Winners never quit and quitters never win.—Vince Lombardi
You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take.—Wayne Gretzky
Somebody's gotta win and somebody's gotta lose and I believe in letting the other guy lose.—Pete Rose
The manager of a team is like a stagecoach: he can't move unless he has the horses.—Pete Rose
If you can believe it, the mind can achieve it.—Ronnie Lott
If you train hard, you'll not only be hard, you'll be hard to beat.—Herschel Walker
The more I practice, the luckier I get.—Gary Player
Competitive sports are played mainly on a five-and-a-half inch court: the space between your ears.—Bobby Jones
A champion is someone who gets up when he can't.—Jack Dempsey
It took me seventeen years to get three thousand hits in baseball. I did it in one afternoon on the golf course.—Hank Aaron
Nobody roots for Goliath.—Wilt Chamberlain
To be prepared is half the victory.—Miguel Cervantes

Famous Last Words

More light!—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Oh Wow!!! Oh Wow!!! Oh Wow!!!—Steve Jobs
'Tis well.—George Washington
It's very beautiful over there.—Thomas Edison
The taste of death is upon my lips; I feel something that is not of this earth.—Mozart
Friends applaud, the comedy is over.—Ludwig van Beethoven
Drink to me!—Pablo Picasso
Don't disturb my equations!—Archimedes, to the soldier who killed him
Dying is easy, comedy is hard.—George Bernard Shaw
Bring down the curtain, the farce is played out.—Francois Rabelais
It's better to burn out than to fade away. Peace, Love, Empathy.—Kurt Cobain, quoting Neil Young
I must go in, the fog is rising.—Emily Dickinson
Does nobody understand?—James Joyce, whose writing was famously difficult to understand
It's been a long time since I've had champagne.—Anton Chekhov
Either that wallpaper goes, or I do.—Oscar Wilde
I've had eighteen straight whiskies, I think that's the record!—Dylan Thomas
Cool it, brothers.—Malcolm X
Love one another.—George Harrison
Don't mourn for me. Organize!—Joe Hill
Come on! Take action! Let's go!—Sitting Bull
Are you guys ready? Let's roll.—Todd Beamer, United Flight 93, September 11, 2001
God will forgive me. That is his profession.—Heinrich Heine
Now, now, my good man, this is no time for making enemies.—Voltaire,  on his deathbed, when asked by a priest to renounce Satan
I am curious to see what happens in the next world to one who dies unshriven.—Pietro Perugino, refusing the last rites
I lingered around them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.—Emily Bronte

To read more, please click here: Famous Last Words.

Heaven (and how to get there)

The mystics of many religions, from Judaism to Christianity to Sufism, and even agnostics and atheists have at times have had visions of what seems to be heaven:

The lion shall lie down with the lamb and a little child shall lead them.—A common rephrasing of Isaiah 11:6-8
All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.—Julian of Norwich, hearing the voice of God in a vision
Be not dishearten'd—Affection shall solve the problems of Freedom yet; those who love each other shall become invincible.—Walt Whitman
God is Love, and he who abides in Love abides in God, and God abides in him.—Saint John
Love suffers long, and is kind; envies not; seeks not her own; thinks no evil; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.—Saint Paul
Love never fails.—Saint Paul
If God is not love, he is nothing, and all the words of the Bible are just clanging gongs and tinkling cymbals.—Saint Paul (paraphrased)
And now abide faith, hope and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.—Saint Paul, concluding his epistle on Divine Love
To love another person is to see the face of God.—Victor Hugo
That Love is all there is, is all we know of Love.—Emily Dickinson
All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love.—Leo Tolstoy
The love of heaven makes one heavenly.—William Shakespeare
How can one live without grace? One has to do what Christianity never did: be concerned with the damned.—Albert Camus

Saint Peter, in his second sermon after Pentecost, speaking to the men who had crucified Jesus Christ just forty days earlier, spoke of the "restitution of all things to God, spoken of by all the Holy Prophets since the world began." Other Bible verses speak of all men being saved, and of God being all in all. If like me you have a hard time reconciling the idea of unconditional love, grace and forgiveness with an "eternal hell," you may be interested to learn what I discovered: There is no "Hell" in the Bible.


Love keeps the cold out better than a cloak.—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Love comforteth like sunshine after rain.—William Shakespeare
Love distills desire upon the eyes, love brings bewitching grace into the heart.—Euripides
Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and commune with each other.—Rainer Maria Rilke
Keep love in your heart. A life without love is like a sunless garden full of wilted flowers.—Oscar Wilde, slightly paraphrased
Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.—Lao Tzu
Love does not dominate; it cultivates.—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.—Helen Keller
There is no remedy for love but to love more.—Henry David Thoreau
I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.—Mother Teresa
Love is the strongest force the world possesses, and yet it is the humblest imaginable.—Mohandas Gandhi
A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous.—Ingrid Bergman
The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.—Audrey Hepburn
What I feel for you seems less of earth and more of a cloudless heaven.—Victor Hugo
Perhaps love is the process of my gently leading you back to yourself.—Antoine de Saint-Exupery

To read more, please click here: The Best Quotes and Epigrams about Love.

Tolerance and Diversity

Treat everyone you meet as if they are God in drag.—Ram Dass
I'm on the right track, baby, I was born this way.—Lady Gaga
Class is classlessness.—T. Merrill
If you're being bullied, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.—Elizabeth Harris Burch
Whether you're gay, straight, Goth or geek, it's okay to be different, so take the power back! It belongs to you.—Elizabeth Harris Burch
When I was being bullied, I had to learn not to judge myself by the opinions of intolerant morons. Then I felt much better.—Michael R. Burch
The world is never as small as small people.—Janet Kenny
Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one's own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.—John F. Kennedy
Before every man can present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.—Albert Einstein
Tolerance is giving to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself.—Robert Green Ingersoll
What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. Let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly.—Voltaire
Religion is like a pair of shoes. Find one that fits for you, but don't make me wear your shoes.—George Carlin
Without tolerance, our world becomes hell.—Friedrich Durrenmatt
Certainly tolerance and acceptance were at the forefront of my music.—Bruce Springsteen
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.—Rumi
It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.—Thomas Jefferson
All Americans who believe in freedom, tolerance and human rights have a responsibility to oppose bigotry and prejudice based on sexual orientation.—Coretta Scott King
I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality ... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Kindness and Compassion

Unfading are the gardens of kindness.—Greek proverb
A bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that dispenses roses.—Chinese proverb
Always be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle.—a variation on Plato, John Watson, James M. Barrie
Any good that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now ... for I shall not pass this way again.—Etienne Griellet
You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.Ralph Waldo Emerson
Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, believing that one day someone might do the same for you.—Princess Diana
As much as we need a prosperous economy, we also need a prosperity of kindness and decency.—Caroline Kennedy
Ask yourself: Have you been kind today? Make kindness your daily modus operandi and change your world.—Annie Lennox
As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.—Albert Schweitzer
I'm going to be kind, because then it all just kind of spreads, and the world is a little nicer out there.—Ellen DeGeneres
Recompense injury with justice, and kindness with kindness.—Confucius
My life is unjust, but I can strive for justice. My life is unkind, but I can vote for kindness.—Vachel Lindsay
Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever is not kind has no faith.—Mohammed
My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.—Dalai Lama
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.  If you want to be happy, practice compassion.—Dalai Lama
He who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.—Saint Basil
He who aspires to paradise should learn to deal with people with kindness.—Abu Bakr
A word of kindness is seldom spoken in vain, while witty sayings are as easily lost as the pearls slipping from a broken string.—George Dennison Prentice

To read more, please click here: Best Kindness and Compassion Quotes and Epigrams.


Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
A right delayed is a right denied.—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Justice cannot be for one side alone, but must be for both.—Eleanor Roosevelt
There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts.—Mohandas Gandhi
Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail they become dams that block the flow of social progress.—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Epigrams can be Vehicles of Social Change and Progress

If we want to live in a better world here on earth—a world of equality, tolerance and peace rather than racism, intolerance and ceaseless violence and war—both the prophets and the great humanitarians have told us what we need to know, understand, and do:

Bigotry is the sacred disease.—Heraclitus
Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.—H. L. Menken
We may have come in on different ships, but we're all in the same boat now.—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
First they [unjust rulers and governments] ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.—Mohandas Gandhi
Give peace a chance.—John Lennon
One man cannot hold another man down in the ditch without remaining down in the ditch with him.—Booker T. Washington
Never look down on anybody unless you're helping him up.—Jesse Jackson
In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.—Confucius
Poverty must not be a bar to learning and learning must offer an escape from poverty.—President Lyndon B. Johnson

Ethical and Religious Epigrams

Some of the most important ethical teachings of major world religions have been passed down to the world in the form of epigrams. Here are a few quick examples:

To thy faith add knowledge, to thy actions, love, and thy presence among the people will be a benediction.—Order of the Amaranth
Blessed are the peacemakers.—Jesus
Judge not, that ye be not judged.—Jesus
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you: this is the Law and the Prophets.—Jesus
The most excellent jihad [struggle] is that for the conquest of self.—Mohammed
The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr.—Mohammed
The rights of women are sacred. See that women are maintained in the rights assigned to them.—Mohammed
I like your Christ, but not Christianity. You Christians are so unlike your Christ.—Mohandas Gandhi
A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.—Nelson Mandela
Yesterday I was clever, that is why I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, that is why I am changing myself.—Sri Chinmoy
Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who said it, even if I said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and common sense.—Buddha

To read more epigrams in this category, please click here: Religious and Ethical Epigrams.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was perhaps the most influential "first lady" in American history. After FDR's death, she was a delegate to the UN General Assembly from 1945 and 1952, a job for which she was appointed by President Harry S. Truman and confirmed by the United States Senate. During her time at the UN she chaired the committee that drafted and approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. President Truman called her the "First Lady of the World" in tribute to her human rights achievements. Her wit and wisdom shine in the following epigrams:

Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you'll be criticized anyway. You'll be damned if you do, and damned if you don't.
Anyone who thinks must think of the next war as they would of suicide.
I can not believe that war is the best solution. No one won the last war, and no one will win the next war.
It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
It is not more vacation we need—it is more vocation.
It isn't enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn't enough to believe in it. One must work at it.
Justice cannot be for one side alone, but must be for both.
Never allow a person to tell you "no" who doesn't have the power to say "yes."
When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?
I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: "no good in a bed, but fine up against a wall."

Modern Epigrams: Email Sign-Offs, Tweets, Personal Mottos, Slogans, etc.

Discontent is the first necessity of progress.—Thomas Alva Edison

The Edison epigram above has become my personal motto. I've used it to "sign off" many an email and I've received a number of emails that end with epigrams. In fact, I first discovered two wonderfully touching epigrams by Michel de Montaigne and Ana´s Nin (below on this page) in emails sent to me by colleagues. On a related note, before I delve further into the greatest epigrams of all time, I'd like to consider a popular new form of epigram: the Tweet. Here's my favorite Tweet to date:

The Capitol looks beautiful and I am honored to be at work tonight.—Gabrielle Giffords

Gabrielle Giffords is the Arizona congresswoman who was shot and nearly killed. While so many other American politicians rage and imagine vain things, I find her words wonderfully touching and encouraging. Reading her highly poetic Tweet, I can actually see our nation's Capitol lit up at night, shining like a beacon, and feel her sincerity. How many senators and congressmen are humble enough to feel honored to work for their country, I wonder? In any case, I'm glad to have Gabby back, and to know that she's not only recovering from her injuries, but wants to help her country recover from its own deep-seated (albeit often self-inflicted) wounds. I only hope that other Americans will exhibit some of her grace under fire. After all, since she pulled through her harrowing ordeal, so can we as a nation, if only we emulate her courage and resolve. And as I write this, I am reminded of Gabby's favorite epigram, which appears on her Facebook page:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds.—Abraham Lincoln

To further demonstrate how epigrams can intersect our lives and perhaps influence our stars, Gabby's husband the astronaut Mark Kelly had inscribed on her wedding ring, "You're the closest to heaven that I've ever been"—words from a song by the Goo Goo Dolls that obviously have a very special meaning for them. The inscription is actually a short rhyming poem, an epigram for the ages:

You're the closest to heaven
that I've ever been.

Epigrams in Unexpected Places

As I worked on this page, I was struck by the sweetness, tenderness, honesty and wisdom of one of the world's most famous "dumb blondes." As a famous epigram goes, perhaps we shouldn't judge a book by its cover. Please consider the wit and wisdom of Marilyn Monroe ...

Marilyn Monroe

What do I wear in bed? Why, Chanel No. 5, of course!
It's not true that I had nothing on. I had the radio on.
I've been on a calendar, but never on time.
I don't mind making jokes, but I don't want to look like one.
If I'd observed all the rules I'd never have gotten anywhere.
Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.
Men are so willing to respect anything that bores them.
Before marriage, a girl has to make love to a man to hold him. After marriage, she has to hold him to make love to him.
It's all make believe, isn't it?
I don't want to make money, I just want to be wonderful.
Dreaming about being an actress, is more exciting then being one.
I have too many fantasies to be a housewife. I guess I am a fantasy.
You believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself.
A wise girl kisses but doesn't love, listens but doesn't believe, and leaves before she is left.
Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.
If you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best.
I guess I have always been deeply terrified to really be someone's wife, since I know from life one cannot love another, ever, really.
I've often stood silent at a party for hours listening to my movie idols turn into dull and little people.
I love to do the things the censors won't pass.
If you can make a girl laugh, you can make her do anything.
There was my name up in lights. I said, "God, somebody's made a mistake." But there it was, in lights. And I sat there and said, "Remember, you're not a star." Yet there it was, up in lights.

Sex Ed

Some of the best epigrams are humorous (and wise) commentary on sex and human sexual relationships:

Behind every successful man is a surprised woman.—Maryon Pearson
Husbands are like fires: they go out if unattended.—Zsa Zsa Gabor
When women go wrong, men go right after them.—Mae West
Give a man a free hand and he'll run it all over you.—Mae West
I believe that sex is one of the most beautiful, natural, wholesome things that money can buy.—Tom Clancy
You know "that look" women get when they want sex? Me neither.—Steve Martin
Having sex is like playing bridge. If you don't have a good partner, you'd better have a good hand.—Woody Allen
Oral contraception? I asked a girl to go to bed with me and she said "no."—Woody Allen
Instead of getting married again, I'm going to find a woman I don't like and just give her a house.—Rod Stewart
The problem is that God gives men a brain and a penis, and only enough blood to run one at a time.—Robin Williams
Women may be able to fake orgasms. But men can fake entire relationships.—Sharon Stone
I'd rather regret the things I've done than regret the things I haven't done.—Lucille Ball
I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered, except for the catalog description: no good in a bed, but fine up against a wall.—Eleanor Roosevelt

A husband is a guy who tells you when you've got on too much lipstick
and helps you with your girdle when your hips stick.
Ogden Nash

Epigrams Defined

But what, exactly, is an epigram, and what do the producers of great epigrams have in common? Well, "in short," epigrams are brief, pithy, hard-hitting sayings, and the great epigrammatists are keen students of humanity who know how to get their points across in the form of verbal wallops. So the best epigrams are often wise, funny or snide commentary on human nature, societies and beliefs. For example:

Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.Dorothy Parker
The ballot is stronger than the bullet.—Abraham Lincoln
A man may be a fool and not know it, but not if he is married.—H. L. Mencken
Your children need your presence more than your presents.—Jesse Jackson

Puns, Word-Play, Raillery and Drollery

Jackson's epigram is a pun, or word-play, as is Lincoln's. Parker's epigram is a stellar example of raillery, which has been defined as "light, teasing banter," "gentle mockery" and "good-humored satire or ridicule." It is also an example of drollery: something whimsically comical. Raillery can be both wonderfully funny, and wonderfully effective:

If you can't be a good example, you'll just have to be a horrible warning.—Catherine the Great
There is no glory in outstripping donkeys.Marcus Valerius Martial
As blushing may make a whore seem virtuous, so modesty may make a fool seem sensible.—Jonathan Swift
Religion is the opiate of the people.—Karl Marx
Religion is the dopiate of the sheeple.—Michael R. Burch
If you think you're too small to make an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.—Edith Sitwell
If we don’t want to define ourselves by things as superficial as our appearances, we’re stuck with the revolting alternative of being judged by our actions.—Ellen DeGeneres

Here's a bit of rather gentle raillery of my own, called "Saving Graces":

Life’s saving graces are love, pleasure, laughter ...
wisdom, it seems, is for the Hereafter.
Michael R. Burch

My epigram is dedicated to Christians who claim they'll inherit heaven at the expense of everyone else. (If you question the idea that Einstein and Gandhi will go to "hell," please read Why "hell" is vanishing from the Bible.)

Waggery, Jests, Ribald Jokes

Perhaps at the opposite end of the spectrum from raillery would be waggery (the wisecrack, the bald-faced jest, the ribald joke which is sexual, excretory or somehow offensive, to someone):

A man who says he can see through a woman is missing a lot.—Groucho Marx
A man's only as old as the woman he feels.—Groucho Marx

The One-Liner, or Zinger

Another name for Marx's method is "the zinger," a potent form of the comedian's one-liner. The zinger requires upsetting the applecart of our polite polities. But there are many other "flavors" of epigrams. One of my favorite categories is best exemplified by the Divine Oscar Wilde, who upsets the applecart in an entirely different way:

Questions are never indiscreet, answers sometimes are.Oscar Wilde

The Bon Mot

What a wickedly scathing line! This is a wonderful example of the bon mot ("good word"), the best way of saying something. There has never been a better critic of gossip, innuendo and scandal-mongering than Oscar Wilde (perhaps because so many prudes, busybodies and gossips considered him to be scandalous, when the real scandal was that they refused to mind their own business):

Scandal is gossip made tedious by morality.Oscar Wilde

Wilde is every moralist's worst nightmare, because he was wise in the ways of the world and human nature, while moralists are usually up to their eyeballs in hypocrisy. Centuries before Wilde, Aristotle proved the ancient Greeks could be scintillantly scathing:

Wit is educated insolence.—Aristotle

But epigrams can also be wonderfully touching and moving:

The births of all things are weak and tender,
therefore we should have our eyes intent on beginnings.
Michel de Montaigne

If we are to have real peace in the world,
we shall have to begin with the children.
―Mohandas Gandhi

As an Israeli, I have come to understand:
there is no way to love Israel and reject a two-state peace,
no way to love Israel and reject Palestine.
—Yael Dayan, daughter of Moshe Dayan, Israel's most famous general

If you would lift me you must be on higher ground.―Ralph Waldo Emerson

The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men gang aft agley [go oft awry].—Robert Burns

The line above was written after the great Scottish poet accidentally destroyed a field mouse's nest; his epigram provided the title for John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. Epigrams also provided the titles for the novels Gone With The Wind and For Whom The Bell Tolls, and the ideas for the songs I Am A Rock and Islands In The Stream. (These are just some obvious examples; there are many more.)

Epigrams can also be wise, and liberating:

It takes courage to push yourself to places that you have never been before, to test your limits, to break through barriers. And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.Ana´s Nin

Shake off all fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.—Thomas Jefferson

The rank is but the guinea’s stamp; the man’s the gowd [gold] for a’ [all] that!Robert Burns

Epigrams like the last one above helped fuel the American and French revolutions; Burns was saying that commoners had the same "mettle" and worth as royals and lords. Here's a similar epigram by another great poet:

I am his Highness' dog at Kew;
pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?
Alexander Pope


Epigrams which convey essential truths or principles are called aphorisms:

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.―Unknown
The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.―Unknown
A watched pot never boils.―Unknown
Life is short, art long.―Hippocrates
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.—Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are even aphorisms about aphorisms:

An aphorism can never be the whole truth; it is either a half-truth or a truth-and-a-half.—Karl Kraus
Certain brief sentences are peerless in their ability to give one the feeling that nothing remains to be said.—Jean Rostand
My ambition is to say in ten sentences what everyone else says in a book.—Friedrich Nietzsche

The epigram is the simple, elegant black dress of literature; it leaves nearly everything bared and yet still temptingly open to the imagination. The best epigrammatists produce belle lettres ("beautiful letters" or "fine writing") en brief ("in brief"). But there is as much diversity among epigrammatists as there is in the sea. Take the one below from the master of relativity himself, Albert Einstein. Einstein, who was quite the ladies' man, was asked to explain relativity. He chose to describe the perception of time as an aspect of human nature and physical attraction:

Sit next to a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. Sit on a red-hot stove for a minute, it seems like an hour. That's relativity!Albert Einstein

The Limerick

Another popular form of the epigram is the limerick. Here's one that delves into the zanier aspects of relativity:

There once was a woman named Bright
who traveled much faster than light.
She set out one day
in a relative way
and came back the previous night!

Leg-Pulling, Horseplay, Whimsy, Monkeyshines, etc.

Einstein's epigram might be assigned any of a number of sub-terms: leg-pulling, horseplay, whimsy, a monkeyshine . . . perhaps even a hoodwink, boondoggle or snow job (since the "relativity" being discussed has little to do with physics, but much to do with physiques, body chemistry and sex). Still, Einstein's epigram, whatever we choose to call it, contains considerable wisdom. But sometimes epigrams can be entirely for amusement, such as this one of mine. I call it "Nun Fun Undone":

are not for excesses!
Michael R. Burch

An epigram like mine that is entirely for the sake of humor might earn sobriquets like: tomfoolery, buffoonery, mummery, a chestnut, a gag, a ha-ha, a jape, a jest, a lark, a rib, a sally, a quirk, a whim, a vagary.


A similar form of epigram is the comic's one-liner, or quip. One of the most famous one-liners is:

Take my wife . . . please!—Henny Youngman


One of the more creative types of epigram is the spoonerism, a type of pun, or word-play:

I'd rather have a bottle in front of me
than a frontal lobotomy.
Dorothy Parker

The Chiasmus

Other types of epigrams also play on words. For instance the chiasmus repeats the same or very similar words in a different order:

It's not the size of the dog in the fight that counts, it's the size of the fight in the dog.—Dwight D. Eisenhower
It's not the men in your life that count, it's the life in your men.—Mae West
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.—Maya Angelou
Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.Oscar Wilde
I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing.Ronald Reagan

In effect, a spoonerism is an aural chiasmus: the sounds of words are reversed, rather than the same or similar words being reversed.

Light Verse and Doggerel

Then there is light verse: poetry too un-serious about itself and its aims to assume literary airs. In its silliest and least "literary" forms, light verse is called doggerel. Masters of English light verse include Lord Byron (the author of "Don Juan") and my personal favorite, Ogden Nash:

The turtle lives 'twixt plated decks
which practically conceal its sex.
I think it clever of the turtle
in such a fix to be so fertile.
—Ogden Nash


Another category of epigram is the anecdote, a brief account or narrative, often to make or stress an important point:

I came, I saw, I conquered.—Julius Caesar
I have not come to praise Caesar, but to bury him.—Brutus
Et tu, BrutÚ?—Julius Caesar [You too, Brutus?]

Personal Sayings

Sometimes we can know a man rather intimately through his most concise sayings:

There is nothing impossible to him who will try.—Alexander the Great
Heaven cannot brook two suns, nor earth two masters.—Alexander the Great
Sex and sleep alone make me conscious that I am mortal.—Alexander the Great
I am dying with the help of too many physicians.—Alexander the Great
A tomb now suffices him for whom the whole world was not sufficient.—Alexander the Great
To the strongest!—Alexander the Great [when asked who should inherit his empire]

If you want to understand how fascists think, consider the words of one who spoke honestly about himself and his beliefs:

A Constitution should be short and obscure.—Napoleon Bonaparte
History is a set of lies agreed upon.—Napoleon Bonaparte
Men are more easily governed through their vices than through their virtues.—Napoleon Bonaparte
I can no longer obey; I have tasted command, and I cannot give it up.—Napoleon Bonaparte
I love power ... as a musician loves his violin, to draw out its sounds and chords and harmonies.—Napoleon Bonaparte
Power is my mistress. I have worked too hard at her conquest to allow anyone to take her away from me.—Napoleon Bonaparte
If you wish to be a success in the world, promise everything, deliver nothing.—Napoleon Bonaparte
In politics never retreat, never retract, never admit a mistake.—Napoleon Bonaparte
Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet.—Napoleon Bonaparte

Sports Quotes

Epigrams can be found in every genre of writing. Here's one I love, by a sports columnist:

If you win, you’re colorful. If you lose, you’re incompetent.—David Climer


Then there are "dead serious" epigrams, called epitaphs. These are the inscriptions that appear on headstones. Here's one of mine called "Epitaph for a Palestinian Child":

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.
Michael R. Burch

We have epitaphs that survive from gravestones found in ancient Greece. Here's one I translated, loosely, from an epitaph attributed to Plato:

Mariner, do not ask whose tomb this may be,
but go with good fortune: I wish you a kinder sea.

Sometimes the lines blur. Here's an epitaph that is also a chiasmus, from the headstone of the famous boxer Jack Dempsey:

A gentle man and a gentleman.—Unknown


The epigram above is also an example of encomium (praise or eulogy). The opposite type of epigram, when offered as invective, is the epithet. An epithet defines or characterizes someone or something. In Homer's day epithets were often complimentary. But today epithets are generally non-complimentary, if not insulting or downright offensive. Modern epithets often descend into derogatory slang and racial invective. But in the hands of a master epigrammatist like Will Rogers, they can still be sublime in effect:

An economist's guess is liable to be as good as anybody else's.—Will Rogers
Make crime pay. Become a lawyer.—Will Rogers
A fool and his money are soon elected.—Will Rogers

Political Epigrams

Political epigrams can be equally scathing, whether aimed at liberals, conservatives or politicians in general:

I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.—Will Rogers
If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.—John F. Kennedy
The very word "secrecy" is repugnant in a free and open society.—John F. Kennedy
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.—John F. Kennedy
A conservative is a man who believes that nothing should be done for the first time.—Alfred E. Wiggam
A conservative is a man who is too cowardly to fight and too fat to run.—Elbert Hubbard
A conservative is one who admires radicals centuries after they're dead.—Leo Rosten
A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward.—Franklin D. Roosevelt
Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a Republican. But I repeat myself.—Harry S. Truman
I don't approve of political jokes; I have seen too many of them get elected.—Jon Stewart
Politics is the second oldest profession; it bears a very close resemblance to the first.—Ronald Reagan
My choices in life were to be a piano-player in a whorehouse or a politician. And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference!—Harry S. Truman
I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it's hell.—"Give 'Em Hell" Harry S. Truman
If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.—Harry S. Truman
You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog.—Harry S. Truman
It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it's a depression when you lose yours.—Harry S. Truman
Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.—Albert Einstein
Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it, and then misapplying the wrong remedies.—Groucho Marx
Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion.—Henry David Thoreau
As a snow-drift is formed where there is a lull in the wind, so, one would say, where there is a lull of truth, an institution springs up.—Henry David Thoreau

Ethnic Humor

A sub-genre of the epithet consists of racial, ethnic or cultural ribbing. Southerners often poke fun at themselves and their neighbors with "hillbilly humor":

You know you're a redneck if your family tree don't fork.—Unknown
You know you're a redneck if your cars sit on blocks and your house has wheels.—Unknown

Parody and Lampooning

Another genre of epigrams engages in parody and lampooning. Here's one I hope to someday include it in a book of poems to be titled Why I Left the Religious Right:

I've got Jesus's name on a wallet insert
and "Hell is for Queers" on the back of my shirt
and I uphold the Law,
for grace has a flaw:
the Church must have someone to drag through the dirt.
Michael R. Burch

Proverbs and Wisdom Sayings

Yet another class of epigram (although one that is generally less entertaining) has any number of names. Let's begin with "proverb" and a famous illustration by one of the world's best-known epigrammatists:

Early to bed, early to rise
makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
—Ben Franklin

Miguel de Cervantes defined a proverb as "a short sentence based on long experience." There are, it seems, a bazillion other names for such bits of homey wisdom: adage, moral, homily, bromide, aphorism, apophthegm, axiom, dictum, maxim, motto, folk wisdom, platitude, motto, precept, saw, saying, truism, catchphrase, formula, gnome, pithy saying, etc. But alas!, many proverbs are boring and some are untrue, to boot. How many men got up early every morning, were poor as dirt, and died early deaths? Surely multitudes! But many epigrams contain both vital wisdom and sparkling humor. Sometimes the epigram is the salvo a brilliant, battle-savvy cynic launches against human ignorance, intolerance, cruelty and insanity:

There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.Mark Twain

To determine the truth of Twain's remark, just inquire with any black American slave, or any Native American who walked the Trail of Tears, or any Palestinian who's been herded inside the walled ghetto of Gaza and had the gates slammed shut in his face. None of them will praise the white man's self-avowed "democratic ideals" or his "Judeo-Christian ethics." If you don't agree with Twain, please be assured that he is the keener  observer and savvier student of history and human nature. But if you read his epigrams, you may quickly close the gap! And I believe Einstein was in general agreement with Twain when he said:

I don't know what weapons will be used in World War III, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.Albert Einstein

One has only to be able to put two and two together, to understand why Twain's remark relates to Einstein's. Just consider the millions of Palestinians who suffer inside squalid refugee camps and walled ghettoes, thanks to the "democracies" of the USA, Great Britain and Israel, while 1.5 billion Muslims see and share their agony. If we don't understand why denying other people freedom, human rights and dignity will cause us to end up fighting with sticks and stones after a nuclear Armageddon . . . well, we're just not as observant or wise as Twain and Einstein. But we certainly can't say they didn't warn us, as did an American president who was a master of the chiasmus:

Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.—John F. Kennedy
Anyone who thinks must think of the next war as they would of suicide.—Eleanor Roosevelt

The history of such epigrams goes "way back" in time. In the 6th century B.C. the legendarily rich King Croesus of Lydia said:

In peace sons bury their fathers, but in war fathers bury their sons.—Croesus

When we consider the expensive, bloody follies of the U.S. government in the Middle East, we can only wish American politicians had heeded Will Rogers:

If there is one thing that we do worse than any other nation, it is try and manage somebody else's affairs.― Will Rogers

And a great French essayist can explain why American freedoms seem to be vanishing:

The clatter of arms drowns out the voice of law.—Michel de Montaigne

Following in the same vein of questioning whether human beings are using their advanced brains to "think" when they do such things as wage war, here are two related epigrams by one of my favorite contemporary writers:

Thinking is often claimed but seldom proven.— T. Merrill
It must be hard being brilliant with no way to prove it.— T. Merrill

Have we remained savages, while only claiming to be an intelligent species? If we take a step back, open our eyes, look around, and see what man's most "advanced" civilizations are doing to homosexuals, Muslims and women and children on a daily basis . . . well, it's hard to credit the idea that we are actually "thinking." When I was a small boy, evangelical Christian adults informed me that just thinking about sex was "evil" (because Jesus said lust was the same as adultery) and that all adulterers went to hell. Just imagine what happened when I reached puberty: it was a terrifying, soul-shattering experience. Years later, I learned that a place called "hell" was never mentioned in the Old Testament, the epistles of Paul (the earliest-written Christian texts) or the book of Acts (ostensibly the self-recorded history of the early Christian church). The Hebrew word Sheol and the Greek word Hades clearly mean "the grave," not "hell." So the bizarre "hell" Christians use to terrorize and brainwash their own children was obviously a very late, very clumsy addition to the Bible. And yet millions of children continue to be tortured psychologically, emotionally and spiritually because "hell" is very good for church business. Mark Twain discovered what I discovered, and said:

I found out that I was a Christian for revenue only and I could not bear the thought of that, it was so ignoble.Mark Twain


The great epigrammatists often arise from the ranks of the disaffected and oppressed. Oscar Wilde, the greatest epigrammatist of them all, served time in Reading Gaol for "indecency" (he had the temerity to be flamboyantly gay). Twain wrote volumes exposing and expounding on the massive illogic of orthodox Christianity (he had the temerity to be a heretic, but had to hold up the publication of his anti-Christian opus Letters from the Earth for fifty years after his death, in order to protect his family from fire-breathing Christian fundamentalists). Einstein produced many of his epigrams against the backdrop of Nazi Germany (he had the temerity to be a brilliant Jew).  Today many of our best epigrammatists are women who combine sharp minds with even sharper tongues:

Behind every successful man is a surprised woman.—Maryon Pearson
A male gynecologist is like an auto mechanic who never owned a car.—Carrie Snow
The phrase "working mother" is redundant.—Jane Sellman
If high heels were so wonderful, men would still be wearing them.—Sue Grafton
If you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman.—Margaret Thatcher
Grace Kelly did everything Fred Astaire did: walking backwards, in high heels!—Unknown
The problem with most women is that they get all excited about nothing, then marry him.—Cher

Here's a similar epigram that I absolutely love, although it creates something of a dichotomy:

When women are depressed they either eat or go shopping. Men invade another country.—Elayne Boosler

Female politicians like Margaret Thatcher may be somewhat at odds (or loose ends) with female comedians like Elayne Boosler, since Thatcher wasn't above an invasion herself (of the Falkland Islands). But Boosler hammers the human funnybone nonetheless. She doesn't have to be perfect, just witty and succinct enough to make us blink, then think.

The stupendous epigrams above prove women's brains are every bit as good as men's, as they extract Eve's revenge at the expense of men's prehistoric prejudices. Here's my favorite epigram in this genre:

Whatever women must do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.—Charlotte Whitton

A great female epigrammatist can use her razor-sharp wit to deflate bigotry:

I'm not offended by dumb blonde jokes because I'm not dumb, and also I'm not blonde.—Dolly Parton

Has anyone ever made a better case for the combinatory advantages of brains, wigs and peroxide? (I will refrain from mentioning Dolly's other, even more glamorous advantages.)


Socrates suggested that we define our terms, so for my purposes here I will use the primary term "epigram" and define it with Webster as a "terse, sage or witty and often paradoxical saying." Paradox can be both enlightening and amusing. Here's a stellar example by a contemporary writer:

Nowadays we make quick work of our courtships; it's our divorces that we spend a lot of time on.—Richard Moore

Paradoxical, indeed! But some epigrams are so paradoxical they seem to be best taken for purposes of amusement and bemusement only:

You can observe a lot just by watching.—Yogi Berra
There are some people who, if they don't already know, you can't tell 'em.—Yogi Berra
Nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded.—Yogi Berra
The future ain't what it used to be.—Yogi Berra
I didn't really say all the things I said.—Yogi Berra
The similarities between me and my father are different.—Dale Berra (Yogi Berra's son)
I know you heard what you thought I said, but what I said isn’t what I meant.—Richard Nixon
More and more of our imports come from overseas.—President George W. Bush


To give us the most possible good material to work with, I will construe the term "epigram" to include one-liners, zingers, spoonerisms, witticisms, aphorisms, saws, pithy sayings, epitaphs, epithets, proverbs, doggerel, the chiasmus (I decline to use the strange plural: chiasmi), brief quotes, short poems, hillbilly humor, maxims, truisms, the wisdom of the ages, etc. I will take as my motto and my guiding light:

Brevity is the soul of wit.—William Shakespeare

One takes one's literary life into one's own hands when one attempts to go beyond the Masters, but then again "nothing ventured, nothing gained" (an epigram and a perfectly good truism), so please allow me to suggest that:

If brevity is the soul of wit
then brevity and levity
are the whole of it.
Michael R. Burch

But then a good epigrammatist won't let us wriggle easily off the hook of a quick assumption:

Brevity is the soul of lingerie.Dorothy Parker

The great epigrammatists will invariably do one of two things: they will either amuse and bemuse us into wisdom, or they will scathe us into wisdom. Let me give some quick examples to illustrate what I mean, before we launch this Enterprise off for the stars, to battle the Klingons (pun on "cling-ons"):

A hangover is the wrath of grapes.—Unknown

To be safe on the Fourth,
Don't buy a fifth on the third.
—James H Muehlbauer

I'd rather have a bottle in front of me
than a frontal lobotomy.
Dorothy Parker

The epigrams above certainly amuse and bemuse, and while most people are unlikely to heed them, they point out the perils of drinking too much: the loss of brain cells, hangovers, fireworks that explode in our hands, etc. Other epigrams may be less overtly funny, but still entertaining and enlightening:

I can resist everything except temptation.Oscar Wilde
The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.Oscar Wilde
Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained.—William Blake
There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable.Mark Twain
To forbid us anything is to make us have a mind for it.—Michel de Montaigne
Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.Mark Twain
Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul.Mark Twain
Must I do all the evil I can before I learn to shun it? Is it not enough to know the evil to shun it? If not, we should be sincere enough to admit that we love evil too well to give it up.—Mohandas Gandhi

What some of the world's greatest writers and wits seem to be telling us, if I apprehend them correctly, is that orthodox morality is dubious at best, if it is morality at all. The great wits listen to sermons about sex being a "sin" and roll their eyeballs toward the heavens, then write scathing epigrams as a way of possibly curing man of his folly. They know the preacher who lectures his flock on the "evils" of sex is just as randy as the rest of them, and probably less inhibited (unless he's a septuagenarian and his hormones have "petered" out, pun intended). Wilde, Blake and Twain understood human nature and were honest about it, and themselves. Twain pointed out that any red-blooded man would give up any possible shot at heaven for a few blissful seconds with the Eve of his dreams. Anyone who claims the Holy Spirit cures human beings of sexual desire is obviously wrong, because human sexuality is not a "disease." But I digress. To continue . . . on these pages you will find some of the wittiest, funniest, pithiest and scathingest things human beings have said, to this late date, on our planet.

My favorite epigrammatists are Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain. Other famous wits sampled herein include Aristotle, Ambrose Bierce, Martial, Ogden Nash and Plato, just to drop a few good names. You won't find many platitudes like "neither a borrower nor a lender be" because my preference is for wince-and-wisdom-inducing humor. After all, Shakespeare was undoubtedly poking fun at Polonius, the banal moralist, whose own children were basket cases. T. S. Eliot "got it," as evidenced by his Prufrock. Most readers don't. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.


One of my all-time favorite epigrams consists of this exchange of repartee between Winston Churchill and Lady Astor:

Lady Astor: "Winston, you're drunk!"
Winston Churchill: "But I shall be sober in the morning and you, madam, will still be ugly."
Lady Astor: "Mr. Churchill, if you were my husband, I'd put poison in your tea."
Winston Churchill: "Madam, if I were your husband, I'd drink it."

Motivational Calls to Action

But a good epigram can also be a call to action:

Discontent is the first necessity of progress.—Thomas Alva Edison

An epigram can also be a call to compassion, empathy and kindness:

Always be kinder than necessary,
for everyone you meet is fighting
some kind of battle.
attributed to T.H. Thompson and John Watson

Don't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his moccasins.—Native American proverb

The Method Behind the Madness

Robert Frost, probably America's last major poet, said "poetry begins in delight and ends in wisdom." I would like to paraphrase him, if I may, and say:

Epigrams delight us into wisdom.—Michael R. Burch

Which is not to say that they invariably make us happy! Below is my favorite among my own epigrams; it illustrates, perhaps, how much can be squeezed into a tight compartment while still leaving breathing room for "special effects" like meter, rhyme and alliteration:

If God
is good
half the Bible
is libel.
Michael R. Burch

In brief, the epigram is the Harry Houdini of literature. Here are a few more of my all-time favorite epigrams:

I can't live without you or with you.—Ovid
Take it from me, marriage isn't a word, it's a sentence!—Vidor King
Our existence is a short circuit of light between two eternities of darkness.—Vladimir Nabokov
The secret of getting things done is to act!—Dante Alighieri
Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!Dorothy (played by Judy Garland)
Houston, we have a problem.Jim Lovell
Imagine there’s no heaven; it’s easy if you try; no hell below us; above us, only sky.—John Lennon

An Epigram about Epigrams, giving Honor where Honor is Due

If, with the literate, I am
Impelled to try an epigram,
I never seek to take the credit;
We all assume that Oscar said it.
Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker is both succinct and correct: If I hear a really good epigram and can't immediately identify its source, my first guess will invariably be the Divine Oscar Wilde.

The HyperTexts