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The Devil's Dictionary

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  7,779 Ratings  ·  492 Reviews
Bierce's classic work of satirical wit and Steadman's pointed pen redefine the way we see even the seemingly simplest of terms. Acquaintance, n.: A person whom we know well enough to borrow from but not well enough to lend to. Bride, n.: A woman with a great future behind her. Consult, v: To seek another's approval of a course already decided on. Ambrose Bierce's "dictiona ...more
ebook, 192 pages
Published October 1st 2010 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published 1906)
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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.

Ambrose Bierce was an American cynic (A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be) and wit (The salt with which the American humorist spoils his intellectual cookery by leaving it out). This, his most famous (Conspicuously miserable) and enduring work, started as a weekly newspaper column in 1881, was initially published in 1906 as “The Cynic's Word Book”, and then in 1911 as “The Devil's Dictionary”. I think the earlier title is more apt, though the final c ...more
Jan 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
“CYNIC, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. Hence the custom among the Scythians of plucking out a cynic's eyes to improve his vision.”

A hundred years before Twitter and other social media, uber cynic and epic tough old guy Ambrose Bierce found a way to say everything he meant, ugly and in-yer-face prose but in a scholarly and artful way in the Devil’s Dictionary.

“SUCCESS, n. The one unpardonable sin against one's fellows. In literature, and part
May 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference
I know I know this is not a real dictionary, but I read the entries randomly, and sometimes I checked a word if there was an amusing definition when I was skimming reading this book. That's why I put it as reference.

I am tempted to put it on read shelf, but I admit I haven't read all of the definitions.
Nov 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
J.G. 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.
Apr 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor-satire
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
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.
juan carlos
Mar 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ambrose Bierce, es un genio criticando su sociedad, la religión, la educación y los modos de vida de las personas contemporáneas.

A través de sátira y humor negro, va transformando términos y conceptos que ya conocemos y los retuerce de unas maneras inimaginables, que te harán pensar, reír, y gritar ESTOY DE ACUERDO CONTIGO.

Es un gran texto de aforismos y sentencias que recomiendo bastantes, además el prologo y la biografía que vienen al inicio de esta obra es sublime, aprendes mucho acerca de
May 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 21, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-by-men
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.
Mohammad Ali

کتاب جالبیه؛ مدخلایی که آدم ذکاوت و طنزپردازی مؤلف رو تحسین کنه درش کم نیست. البته هم فضای زبانیش و هم فضای فرهنگیش دیگه قدیمی شده؛ ولی کلا این جور کتابی اگه کسی باز می شناسه به منم بگه

ترجمه از حیث کلیت مطابقت قابل قبوله - هر چند در مواردی به نظرم اشتباهه و در مواردی هم به نظرم مشکوکه. اما در مورد برابرگزینیِ مفردات، خوب عمل نکرده، دقت ندارن برابرها؛ همپوشانی هم دارن مثلا دو واژه یه چیز ترجمه شدن. اشکال دیگه اینه که مترجم به ما نمی گه چه تعداد از مدخل ها ترجمه نشدن. سوای این نقائص، در ترجمه یه ط
Ahmad Sharabiani
عنوان اصلی: فرهنگ شیطان دوزبانه
The devil's dictionary
این کتاب با عنوان: دایرة المعارف شیطان؛ با ترجمه: مهشید میرمعزی؛ توسط انتشارات مروارید؛ در سال 1380 منتشر شده است
Michael Perkins
Oct 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hi, my name is Ambrose Bierce. Chances are, you have never heard of me. Or, if so, likely from my Devil’s Dictionary, which I will quote in parentheses throughout this column. I was once an idealistic youth. I even believed in Santa Claus when I was a small child. But when my mother told me the truth, I was very angry with her and am, to some extent, to this day. I don’t like when people lie to me and the world is full of liars. I have spent my career as a journalist exposing liars and giving th ...more
Sep 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
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,
Oct 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jan 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor
Hilarious! A sarcastic compilation of definitions, published in 1906. If you cannot stomach sexist and racist jokes, proceed gingerly.
Here are some cleaner hits :

Abominable adj. The quality of another’s opinions.

Abroad adj. At war with savages and idiots. To be a Frenchman abroad is to be miserable; to be an American abroad is to make others miserable.

Abuse n. The goal of debate.

Accuracy n. A certain uninteresting quality carefully excluded from human statements.

Nick Black
Dec 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Ana-Maria Petre
Oct 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ambrose Bierce is that funny, sardonic uncle who always disagrees with your father at family reunions. He's a highly intelligent person who probably knows they're the smartest in most rooms and laughs at the stupidity and hypocrisy of others, but subtly enough not to be understood by them.

I must admit I loved this book. I tend to be cynical myself at times, and so agree with Mr. Bierce. I think cynics are bluntly honest with themselves, and their distrust of people relies in a high awareness of
Igor Ljubuncic
Sep 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ambrose-bierce
Perfect. This man is the father of trolling and modern sarcasm.
The Internet you have today, you owe it to him. Yup.
Without Bierce, there'd be no memes.

Or if I may sing (Penny Lane style):

Ambrose Bierce is a man with scant few photographs
Of every word he's had the pleasure to write
And all the people that come and go
Stop and say hello

On the corner is a married man wearing Crocs
The little children laugh at him behind his back
And the ladies never give him any slack
In the pouring rain, very strange

Ken Moten
Jul 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.

Apr 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Dec 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Com fotos do interior (esta edição merece) :

Estou a ler este livro há semanas. Não porque seja aborrecido, muito pelo contrário, mas porque esta dicionário subversivo de Ambrose Bierce se apresenta mesmo como um dicionário, com várias entradas, onde se apresenta, para cada palavra, um significado cínico, realista e crítico.

«Aborígenes, n. Pessoas com pouca importância que são encontradas a obstuir o solo de um território recém-descoberto. Deixam rapidamen
Mar 27, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Η τελειότης στον κυνισμό και την κοφτερή γλώσσα.
Μου θύμισε Όσκαρ Ουάιλντ. Η ίδια οξυδέρκεια.
Και πόσο επίκαιρη γραφή!
Μου άρεσε πολύ. Ευαγγέλιο!
Και επειδή έχω ένα θέμα με τη φιλία, ιδού τι λέει ο μετρ :
Φιλία : ένα πλοίο αρκετά μεγάλο για να μεταφέρει δύο άτομα όταν έχει καλό καιρό, αλλά μόνο ένα όταν πιάσει φουρτούνα.
Πλάτη : το μέρος του φίλου σου που μπορείς να παρατηρείς με την άνεση σου, όταν έχεις προβλήματα.
Ζητιάνος : αυτός που υπολόγιζε στη βοήθεια των φίλων του.
Το ένα αστέρι είναι για
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Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce (1842-1914) 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 ni
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“Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage.” 1652 likes
“Quotation, n: The act of repeating erroneously the words of another.” 1179 likes
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