Quotations - Oxford Reference

Quotations

For over 70 years, Oxford has been collecting, sourcing, researching, and authenticating quotations on an international scale. In doing so, it has created the rich language resource from which the Oxford ‘family’ of quotations dictionaries derives.

‘Who said that?’ is the most frequently asked question relating to quotations; it is closely followed by the more general ‘What's been said about this?’ Oxford Reference provides the tools for answering both kinds of query, in a series of dictionaries compiled from our Quotation resources.

Click on a panel below to start exploring sample reference entries within Quotations. 

Useful Resources

Where Do We Find Quotations?

Who is Quoted?

The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations: A Short History

Useful External Links

Additional Resources: Notable Authors

Quotations Help 

Audio Links for the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations 8th Ed

Meet the Experts

All the Quotations content in Oxford Reference is created by recognized experts and is subject to a rigorous editorial process. Our trusted authors and editors are the reason Oxford Reference can answer with authority. Meet our Quotations experts here.

Featured Author

Gyles Brandreth

Gyles Brandreth

Gyles Brandreth is a writer, broadcaster, former MP and government whip, now best known as a reporter for The One Show on BBC1, a regular on Just A Minute, and the host of Wordaholics on BBC Radio 4. He has also featured on Have I Got News For You, QI, Countdown, This Is Your Life, and Desert Island Discs. A former Oxford scholar and President of the Oxford Union, a journalist and award-winning interviewer, a theatre producer, an actor and after-dinner speaker, he has been collecting quotations for more than fifty years.

Author Q&A

What is the one quotation that everyone—from students to everyday web users—should be familiar with? Why?

‘Nothing matters very much and very few things matter at all.’ This wonderful line is the work of Arthur Balfour, who trained as a philosopher and ended up as prime minister in 1902. It is a great line to bear in mind when you are facing Life and its Challenges and everything seems to be getting on top of you.

Which historical events or figures featured in the Dictionary have most influenced your study of quotations?

If you are compiling a dictionary of humorous quotations there are four giants you can't avoid: Mark Twain and Dorothy Parker, from the other side of the pond, and P. G. Wodehouse and Oscar Wilde from the British Isles. One or other of them appears in nearly every entry – even, on occasion, talking about each other. Their best lines are wise as well as witty and, often, unexpected. Oscar Wilde is the guy with the greatest number of entries in the Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations and he deserves to be. I have never committed murder—largely, I think, because Wilde's sound advice was passed on to me when I was young: ‘One should never do anything one cannot talk about after dinner.’

Which figure in history would you most like to invite to a dinner party? What would you ask him/her?

It has to be William Shakespeare. How come we know so little about him when he knows so much about us? I want to find out more—and think of it: after dinner with Shakespeare I'd be able to include some Shakespeare quotations in the Dictionary's next edition. . . Wouldn't that work wonders for sales? (If Shakespeare is otherwise engaged, I'd be very happy to entertain Helen of Troy to dinner. It would be wonderful to set one's eyes on the face that launched a thousand ships. Then again, Dorothy Parker has something to say on this.)