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date: 18 April 2024


  1. The Greeks had a word for it.
    Zoë Akins 1886–1958 American poet and dramatist: title of play (1930)
  2. A word after a word
    after a word is power.
    Margaret Atwood 1939–  Canadian novelist: ‘Spelling’ (1981)
  3. There is no use indicting words, they are no shoddier than what they peddle.
    Samuel Beckett 1906–89 Irish dramatist, novelist, and poet: Malone Dies (1958)
  4. Words easy to be understood do often hit the mark; when high and learned ones do only pierce the air.
    John Bunyan 1628–88 English writer and Nonconformist preacher: The Holy City (1665)
  5. ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’
    Lewis Carroll 1832–98 English writer and logician: Through the Looking-Glass (1872) ch. 6
  6. The word Papa, besides, gives a pretty form to the lips. Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes, and prism, are all very good words for the lips: especially prunes and prism.
    Mrs General
    Charles Dickens 1812–70 English novelist: Little Dorrit (1857) bk. 2, ch. 5
  7. ‘Do you spell it with a “V” or a “W”?’ inquired the judge. ‘That depends upon the taste and fancy of the speller, my Lord,’ replied Sam [Weller].
    Charles Dickens 1812–70 English novelist: Pickwick Papers (1837) ch. 34
  8. With words we govern men.
    Benjamin Disraeli 1804–81 British Tory statesman and novelist; Prime Minister 1868, 1874–80: Contarini Fleming (1832) pt. 1, ch. 21
  9. Words strain,
    Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
    Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
    Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
    Will not stay still.
    T. S. Eliot 1888–1965 American-born British poet, critic, and dramatist: Four Quartets ‘Burnt Norton’ (1936) pt. 5
  10. I gotta use words when I talk to you.
    T. S. Eliot 1888–1965 American-born British poet, critic, and dramatist: Sweeney Agonistes (1932) ‘Fragment of an Agon’
  11. The chief merit of language is clearness, and we know that nothing detracts so much from this as do unfamiliar terms.
    Galen ad 129–199 Greek physician: On the Natural Faculties bk. 1, sect. 1
  12. Some word that teems with hidden meaning—like Basingstoke.
    W. S. Gilbert 1836–1911 English writer of comic and satirical verse: Ruddigore (1887) act 2
  13. It's exactly where a thought is lacking
    That, just in time, a word shows up instead.
    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 1749–1832 German poet, novelist, and dramatist: Faust (1808)
  14. Words are chameleons, which reflect the colour of their environment.
    Learned Hand 1872–1961 American judge: in Commissioner v. National Carbide Corp. (1948)
  15. Dialect words—those terrible marks of the beast to the truly genteel.
    Thomas Hardy 1840–1928 English novelist and poet: The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886) ch. 20
  16. Words are wise men's counters, they do but reckon by them: but they are the money of fools, that value them by the authority of an Aristotle, a Cicero, or a Thomas, or any other doctor whatsoever, if but a man.
    Thomas Hobbes 1588–1679 English philosopher: Leviathan (1651) pt. 1, ch. 4
  17. And once sent out a word takes wing beyond recall.
    Horace 65–8 bc Roman poet: Epistles bk. 1, no. 18, l. 71
  18. Summer afternoon—summer afternoon…the two most beautiful words in the English language.
    Henry James 1843–1916 American novelist: Edith Wharton A Backward Glance (1934) ch. 10
  19. I am not yet so lost in lexicography as to forget that words are the daughters of earth, and that things are the sons of heaven. Language is only the instrument of science, and words are but the signs of ideas: I wish, however, that the instrument might be less apt to decay, and that signs might be permanent, like the things which they denote.
    Samuel Johnson 1709–84 English poet, critic, and lexicographer: A Dictionary of the English Language (1755) preface; see Madden
  20. Don't, Sir, accustom yourself to use big words for little matters.
    Samuel Johnson 1709–84 English poet, critic, and lexicographer: James Boswell Life of Samuel Johnson (1791) 6 August 1763
  21. Good words do not last long unless they amount to something. Words do not pay for my dead people.
    Chief Joseph c.1840–1904 Nez Percé chief: on a visit to Washington in 1879; Chester Anders Fee Chief Joseph (1936)
  22. I fear those big words, Stephen said, which make us so unhappy.
    James Joyce 1882–1941 Irish novelist: Ulysses (1922)
  23. Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.
    Rudyard Kipling 1865–1936 English writer and poet: speech, 14 February 1923
  24. My spelling is Wobbly. It's good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places.
    A. A. Milne 1882–1956 English writer for children: Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) ch. 6
  25. Whatever we have words for, that we have already got beyond.
    Friedrich Nietzsche 1844–1900 German philosopher and writer: Twilight of the Idols (1889) ‘Skirmishes of an Untimely Man’
  26. mike: There's no word in the Irish language for what you were doing.
    wilson: In Lapland they have no word for snow.
    Joe Orton 1933–67 English dramatist: The Ruffian on the Stair (rev. ed. 1967)
  27. ‘Refudiate’, ‘misunderestimate’, ‘weewee'd up’. English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin words, too.
    following controversy over her use of the word ‘refudiate’
    Sarah Palin 1964–  American Republican politician: tweet, 18 July 2010, in Guardian 20 July 2010
  28. Words are like leaves; and where they most abound,
    Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found.
    Alexander Pope 1688–1744 English poet: An Essay on Criticism (1711) l. 309
  29. Man does not live by words alone, despite the fact that he sometimes has to eat them.
    Adlai Stevenson 1900–65 American Democratic politician: The Wit and Wisdom of Adlai Stevenson (1965)