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The Devil's Dictionary

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  6,069 ratings  ·  350 reviews
History, n. an account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools. Marriage, n. The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress, and two slaves, making in all two. Self-Esteem, n. An erroneous appraisement. These caustic aphorisms, collected in The Devil's Dictionary, helpe ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published January 1st 1999 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1906)
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20th out of 32 books — 6 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Manny
goodreads, n. Website designed to prevent people who enjoy books from finding time to read them.

review, v.i. Demonstrate, through a short essay, appreciation for one's own wit.


Szplug
Absolutely inspired. Bierce's wit is a literary scalpel honed to a fineness that can slice exceptionalism at the molecular level. Of a kind with the mighty Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary, though featuring fewer multi-paragraph cannonades of cutting, even cruel wit in lieu of more broadly-aimed and concisely-barbed thrusts. Finding myself stuck in a lengthy queue for the cashier when purchasing it (along with a handful of other textual beauties scooped-up second hand), I opened it to A and ...more
Arthur Graham
For years now, I've kept the following definition tacked to my cubicle wall:

EDITOR, n. A person who combines the judicial functions of Minos, Rhadamanthus and Aeacus, but is placable with an obolus; a severely virtuous censor, but so charitable withal that he tolerates the virtues of others and the vices of himself; who flings about him the splintering lightning and sturdy thunders of admonition till he resembles a bunch of firecrackers petulantly uttering his mind at the tail of a dog; then str
...more
Jareed
The blurb of my copy sufficiently covers what to expect from this book. Originally entitled The Cynic's Word Book, it is an irreverent word book of cynical and sardonic wit. To provide however a more accurate expectation of the iconoclastic definitions and passages herein contained, here's Bierce's rendition of the Demagogue.

Thou shalt no God but me adore:
'Twere too expensive to have more.

No images nor idols make
For Robert Ingersoll to break.

Take not God's name in vain; select
A time when it wi
...more
Keely
There may be none, outside of perhaps Rabelais, who may so decorously handle the refuse of the world. The Devil's Dictionary is a guidebook for the mind of man, and perhaps a certain delicacy becomes necessary when exploring something so rude and unappealing. There is perhaps no greater illustration that the answer of 'why do bad things happen to good people' is: because it is much funnier that way.
Jim
Bierce was well known for his caustic wit. This book is literally a small dictionary of words, the definitions of which are a biting commentary on human nature. The man was definitely a pessimist in his attitude toward the human race & I wouldn't recommend reading this in a single sitting, it's hard to put down. I like to pick it up occasionally, especially if I'm in a bad mood. If nothing else, it spruces up your insults.
Lucy
Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.
Impiety, n. Your irreverence toward my deity.
Patriotism, n. Combustible rubbish ready to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name. In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit it is the first.
Selfish, adj. Devoid of cons
...more
Pewterbreath
This is the perfect coffee-table/bathroom book. Thumbing around this thing one finds tons of amusement. Some of it cuts pretty deep though, and cynicism floods every page. An acid-tinged classic.
Brad
I do recognize the genius of Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary.

I giggled, I guffawed, I snorted, and I laughed in turns. I smiled at some particularly insightful bits of satire. I nodded happily when Bierce's wit assaulted his peers or scored a palpable hit on an issue or a word I wanted to see skewered.

I wanted so badly to enjoy Bierce's classic more than I did, but for every entry I enjoyed there was another that made me bored (I should mention, however, that there was nothing that I h
...more
Nick Black
One of the most surprising books I know -- by far the best book I've read sans preconceptions, or at least presuggestions, of greatness. Ambrose was one clever guy. Although...

...Some purists might claim that the only measure of cleverness that counts is whether one avoids "disappearing into Mexico without a trace, especially for want of something better to do"; in the spirit of The Devil's Dictionary, let me reply to this contextomic litotes without any preciousness regarding the Madero revolut
...more
Rauf
Oct 14, 2007 Rauf rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who loves language and sarcasm
This work is fantastic.


It is not a starter kit for a demonic ritual or anything. It's a mock dictionary. Almost every word in it is defined in a sarcastic and delightful fashion.



Some of my favourite are:


MISFORTUNE, n. the kind of fortune that never missed.

POLITENESS, n. the most acceptable hypocrisy.

BRIDE, n. A woman with a fine prospect of happiness behind her.

BRUTE, n. See HUSBAND.

IMAGINATION, n. A warehouse of facts, with poet and liar in joint ownership.

APRIL FOOL, n. The March fool with an
...more
Ken Moten
READING, n. The general body of what one reads. In our country it consists, as a rule, of Indiana novels, short stories in "dialect" and humor in slang.

REVIEW, v.t. To set your wisdom (holding not a doubt of it,
Although in truth there's neither bone nor skin to it)
At work upon a book, and so read out of it
The qualities that you have first read into it.




I have been procrastinating reviewing this book out of laziness(n. Unwarranted repose of manner in a person of low degree.) and the fact that
...more
Baylee
Leggi la recensione su Lovely Dreams!

Se vi piace vedere il mondo da una prospettiva meno usuale e più cinica, non potete perdervi questo piccolo, geniale dizionario. Sebbene non tutte le definizioni abbiano la stessa forza, alcune sono memorabili.

emetico (agg. sost.) - Sostanza che suscita nello stomaco un improvviso e vivace interesse per quel che succede di fuori.

merito (s.m.) - Le qualità che dimostrano il nostro buon diritto a ottenere ciò che qualcun altro si prende.

prossimo (s.m.) - Uno ch
...more
Maria
Un'irriverente campionatura di vocaboli rivisitati in chiave ironica, un vero e proprio dizionario dove ogni definizione è corredata da un pizzico di cinismo.
Come amore, che diventa "parola inventata dai poeti per far rima con cuore", oppure pace, "nel diritto internazionale, si definisce così un periodo di inganni reciproci compreso fra due fasi di combattimento aperto".
E ancora, random:
- catechismo: una scelta di indovinelli teologici in cui dubbi universali ed eterni vengono risolti con rispo
...more
S.B.
Jan 14, 2013 S.B. rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to S.B. by: xmas present to myself
I want the Bierce definition of a quokka. I think they have the power to bring an end to all cynicism and wit.

Hash, x. There is no definition for this word - nobody knows what hash is.

These are still funny over a hundred years later. But sometimes it was like, ugh, Bierce you were really a man of the times.
Tony
Bierce, Ambrose. THE DEVIL’S DICTIONARY. (1911). ****.
Bierce (1842-1913?) was born in Ohio and educated in Indiana. He was the tenth of thirteen children whose father gave all of them names starting with an “A”: In order of birth, they were Abigal, Amelia, Ann, Addison, Aurelius, Augustus, Almeda, Andrew, Albert, Ambrose, Arthur, Adelia, and Aurelia. When Civil War broke out, he enlisted in the Union Army’s 9th Indiana Infantry Regiment. The experiences he had participating in various battles,
...more
Jessica
Reading this book came about after I learned about dailylit.com. I was browsing their selection and saw Bierce’s name. A friend had recommended his horror stories to me years ago but I’d never gotten around to reading any of them. The Devil’s Dictionary is not scary at all but satire at its best.

Bierce plays devil’s advocate and takes a jab at just about everyone and everything. There’s a lot of poetry and quotes mixed throughout which I, at times, liked but I also skimmed a bit of it because th
...more
Aletha Tavares
its not something one reads in a day, but a good book to have while browsing at your desk or to inject humour into our writings.
His definition of Oblivion:The state or condition in which the wicked cease from struggling and the dreary are at rest. fame's eternal dumping ground. Cold storage for high hopes. A place where ambitious authors meet their works without pride and their betters envy. A dormitory without an alarm clock.

The author in 1913 set off for Mexico which was in the middle of a rev
...more
James
Some of the humour has dated somewhat, but a book worth dipping in an out of for some humorous definitions of less humorous words...
Sean DeLauder
Mar 30, 2014 Sean DeLauder rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: aspiring cynics
Shelves: reference
I don't imagine this is a space provided for a review so much as an attempt at one's own misanthropic definitions. Here's a handful that come readily to mind whenever my eyes catch on this book in its place on the bookshelf.

Bigot n.: A person that despises the manifestation of any characteristic in others not also present in themselves.

Egocentric adj.: Behavior that exhibits a less confrontational form of bigotry.

Hypocrite n.: A form of bigot in which the characteristics they despise also manife
...more
Jose Gaona
Inteligente, brillante, divertido, socarrón, sardónico, cínico, desternillante y muchas otras cosas es lo que es este pequeño compendio de sabiduría práctica disfrazado de diccionario. El autor americano, que bien merecería figurar en un libro de historia que versara sobre muertes sorprendentes de personajes célebres, se destapa en este volumen en toda su acidez y corrosión. Dejémosle hablar, por tanto.

"Antiamericano: adj. Perverso, intolerable, pagano.

Autoestima: s. Evaluación errónea.

Belladona
...more
Michael
Apr 24, 2011 Michael rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Cynics, critics, freethinkers
Recommended to Michael by: Seth Klein
In spite of the claims made at the time of publication, this is actually one of those "incomplete" versions of the Dictionary, although it was the authorized version introduced by Bierce himself. The fact of the matter is that the entire lexicon was never published in his lifetime, so if you want a complete version, you have to sacrifice the authenticity of history and accept the editorial work of later scholars. This was, however, the version that was available when I was in middle school and f ...more
Erik Graff
Jan 25, 2009 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bierce fans
Recommended to Erik by: James Ivan Gottreich
Shelves: literature
Jim Gottreich was one of my favorite high school teachers. Indeed, he was the favorite of several of my friends although he did not last at Maine Twp. H.S. South very long.

We met when he did sophomore World History. Hank Kupjack, my first true friend in high school, if not in life, was there also. Hank knew a lot already about 18th century France, his father being the miniaturist, Eugene Kupjack, and Gottreich let him do a presentation about Versailles which, as I recall, had mostly to do with t
...more
Lisa N
Ran across this interesting little book by Ambrose Bierce, author of the short story An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. I just sort of thumbed through this from time to time for a few weeks. A few satirical gems, but I don’t recommend this. Overall, too cynical and pessimistic.

Some of the entries I liked:

Debauchee: One who has so earnestly pursued pleasure that he has had the misfortune to overtake it.

Egotist: A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.

Epigram: …In each human
...more
Paul Secor
Bitter, biting, and on the money.

Other folks have given examples of Bierce's definitions, but I'll add a few more:

Responsibility, n. A detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one's neighbor.

Railroad, n. The chief of many mechanical devices enabling us to get away from where we are to where we are no better off.

Influence, n. In politics, a visionary quo given in exchange for a substantial quid.

Bore, n. A person who talks when you wish him to listen.

Abscond
...more
Ellen
Only three stars because Bierce's cynicism/sarcasm is not funny when applied to God and marriage.

Otherwise, he is a master at employing humor to make keenly truthful observations. A few of my favorite bits are as follows:

Abrupt, adj. Sudden, without ceremony, like the arrival of a cannon-shot and the departure of the soldier whose interests are most affected by it.

Egotist, n. A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.

Jealous, adj. Unduly concerned about the preservation of th
...more
Matimate
It is witty, it is so good that it makes you cry from heavy laugh. The book is like mirror which uncovered truth and gives it with sharpness which is hilarious.

There is special definition of it:

Dictionary, n - A malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic. The present dictionary, however, is one of the most useful works that its author, Dr John Satan, has ever produced. It is designed to be a compendium of everything that is known up produce
...more
Sam
This is a world class book from a world class cynic. Filled with Bierce's superb take on all aspects of life from Abasement (A decent and customary mental attitude in the presence of wealth or power. Peculiarly appropriate in an employee when addressing an employer) to Zoology (The science and history of the animal kingdom, including its king, the House Fly (Musca maledicta). The father of zoology was Aristotle, as is universally conceded, but the name of its mother has not come down to us. Two ...more
James
This is an irreverent literary foray from a curmudgeon who lived an adventurous life. His civil war experience was put to good use in his stories. His journalistic career lasted until 1913 when, at the age of seventy-one, he left for Mexico and was never heard from again. Fortunately he left behind this book of cynical and satirical definitions that show off the underside of humanity. Some definitions are short essays while others provide an opportunity for Bierce to display some verse. He even ...more
Andrew Ives
I'm going to fly in the face of common opinion here. According to the blurb on the back, Ambrose Bierce was an "American wit", surely an oxymoron worthy of inclusion in such a 'rib-tickling' capricious dictionary. I read this book for about half an hour, and regret giving it 29 minutes more time than it warranted. Almost all of the definitions were outdated, untrue, facile, unpleasantly spiteful or so far removed from being witty and amusing, it beggars belief. If you imagine Gyles Brandreth on ...more
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Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce was an American editorialist, journalist, short story writer, fabulist and satirist. Today, he is best known for his short story, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge and his satirical lexicon, The Devil's Dictionary.

The sardonic view of human nature that informed his work – along with his vehemence as a critic, with his motto "nothing matters" – earned him the nickname "Bitt
...more
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“Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage.” 1490 likes
“Quotation, n: The act of repeating erroneously the words of another.” 1105 likes
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