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The Devil's Dictionary

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  6,389 ratings  ·  366 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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1st out of 21 books — 1 voter

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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.

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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.


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

APRIL FOOL, n. The March fool with an
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
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 che ci è stato imposto di amare come no
Maria  (Scratchbook)
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
I wasn't sure about reading something presented in dictionary format, even something satirical, but I gave it a shot since this has long been considered a must for any fan of wit and language play. I was surprised by how much still came across easily after so many years. There are some dry bits when read as a whole, and some bits here and there which I'm sure I didn't pick up on, but it was still fun.
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.
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,
Reading this book came about after I learned about 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
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
Arax Miltiadous
Nov 28, 2012 Arax Miltiadous rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Arax by: αποστολης κουκουλουδης
ο επαναστάτης είναι ο υπέρμαχος μιας νέας οχλοκρατίας, την οποία δεν κατάφερε να επιβάλει."

ναι, είναι κυνικός και πικρόχολος.
είναι όμως απίστευτα διορατικός και τουλάχιστον εύστοχος στις περιγραφές του.
οι συγκεκριμένες εκδόσεις από Ηλέκτρα σε επιμέλεια Γιώργου Μπλάνα είναι εξαιρετικές. εικονογραφημένο με γκροτεσκες φιγούρες επιδίδεσαι σε ένα ταξίδι αναδιατύπωσης εξ ορισμού καθημερινών λέξεων και φράσεων σου.
η πραγματικότητα αν θες, μέσα από μια άλλη εκδοχή!
Although the book is great fun, perhaps not so much to a jaded 21st century mind as it must have been when the book was first published.
Sorry if I sound a bit crabby compared to the glowing 5-star reviews before this one, but although witty, I just don't find this the wittiest ever, which would have made it thus worthy of 5 stars.
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
Aussiescribbler Aussiescribbler
What became The Devil's Dictionary was originally published in 1906 as The Cynic's Word Book. It consists of a collection of wryly cynical definitions of words, often accompanied by comic poems, which Bierce had contributed to a number of publications since 1869.

If there is an underlying theme to the book it is that selfishness, stupidity and hypocrisy are the defining qualities of the human species, that men in positions of power are especially villainous and that women, particularly beautiful
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.

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
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
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.

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
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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 about Ambrose Bierce...
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge Ghost and Horror Stories The Complete Short Stories Civil War Stories An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge and Other Stories

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“Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage.” 1531 likes
“Quotation, n: The act of repeating erroneously the words of another.” 1121 likes
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