Famous Short Quotes

"Brevity is the Soul of Wit" and Other Pithy Short Quotes

William Shakespeare. Portrait of William Shakespeare 1564-1616. Chromolithography after Hombres y Mujeres celebres 1877, Barcelona Spain
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What some of the most brilliant orators and the most memorable writers have always understood is that while a bounty is sometimes necessary, an economy of words can often be a much more effective use of language. A few of the best, such as William Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde, are known for being able to pack a world of meaning in a mere sentence or two. It's small wonder then that some of the greatest quotes are also some of the shortest quotes. This selection from the worlds of politics, entertainment, philosophy, history, and literature includes some prime examples that illustrate the principle, "less is more."

Great Philosophers

"Cogito, ergo sum." ("I think, therefore, I am.")—René Descartes
"Das was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker." (What does not kill me makes me stronger.")—Friedrich Nietzsche
“The unexamined life is not worth living.”Socrates
“One cannot step twice in the same river.”—Heraclitus
“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.”Voltaire
“Science is what you know. Philosophy is what you don't know.” Bertrand Russell
“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”Plato

Sir Winston Churchill

"Never hold discussions with the monkey when the organ grinder is in the room."
"The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see."
"If you're going through hell, keep going."
"There are a terrible lot of lies going about the world, and the worst of it is that half of them are true."
"The price of greatness is responsibility."
"The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes."
"History will be kind to me for I intend to write it."

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
"It takes a long time to bring the past up to the present."
"The truth is found when men are free to pursue it."
"I think we consider too much the good luck of the early bird and not enough the bad luck of the early worm."
The virtues are lost in self-interest as rivers are lost in the sea."

Mohandas K. Gandhi

"Where there is love there is life."
"An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind."
"Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will."

Oscar Wilde

“There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.”
“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”
“There is no sin except stupidity.”
“There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”
“Questions are never indiscreet, answers sometimes are.”
“I can resist everything except temptation.”
“Work is the curse of the drinking classes.”

William Shakespeare

"If music be the food of love, play on."—Duke Orsino, Act I, Scene I, "Twelfth Night"
"Brevity is the soul of wit."—Polonius, Act II, Scene II, "Hamlet"
"Lord, what fools these mortals be."—Puck, Act III, Scene II, "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
"A horse! A horse! My Kingdom for a horse!"—King Richard, Act V, Scene IV, "Richard III"
"Cry 'havoc!' and let slip the dogs of war."—Marc Antony, Act III, Scene I, "Julius Caesar"
"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."—Romeo, Act II, Scene II, "Romeo and Juliet"

Television & Film

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."—Rhett Butler to Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone With the Wind"
"Yada, yada, yada..."—Elaine from "Seinfeld"
"I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."—Dorothy to Toto in "The Wizard of Oz"
"My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!"—Inigo Montoya to Count Rugen in "The Princess Bride"
"Here's looking at you, kid."—Rick Blaine to Ilsa Laszlo in "Casablanca"
"I hate the living."—Dr. Laurel Weaver, "Men in Black"
"It's a dog eat dog world, Sammy, and I'm wearing Milk-Bone underwear."—Norm Peterson, "Cheers"

From the World of the Classics & Literature

"Fortune favors the brave."—Virgil, from the "Aeneid"
“Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.”—from "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley
"One if by land, two if by sea."—from "The Ride of Paul Revere" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"People change and forget to tell each other."Lillian Hellman
"Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers."Alfred Lord Tennyson
"The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity."Dorothy Parker
"The best love affairs are those we never had."—Australian author Norman Lindsay
"People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day."—Pooh, from "Winnie the Pooh" by A.A. Milne
"If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more."Jane Austen
"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."Ernest Hemingway
"Where there is a monster, there is a miracle."—Ogden Nash

Politics and Activism

“America will never be destroyed from the outside."—Abraham Lincoln
"The bulk of the world’s knowledge is an imaginary construction."Helen Keller
"If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed."Adolph Hitler
"Men are not the enemy, but the fellow victims. The real enemy is women's denigration of themselves."Betty Friedan
"Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave."Frederick Douglass
“There never will be complete equality until women themselves help to make laws and elect lawmakers.”Susan B. Anthony

Legendary Entertainers

"There's a sucker born every minute."P.T. Barnum
"In the end, everything is a gag."Charlie Chaplin
"Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else."—Will Rogers
"I used to be Snow White, but I drifted."Mae West
"Don't get even, get mad."Frank Sinatra
"Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet."—Bob Dylan
"I don't want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member."Groucho Marx

Art & Architecture

"Less is more."—Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."Michelangelo
“The truth is more important than the facts.”—Architect Frank LLoyd Wright
"I dream of painting and then I paint my dream."Vincent Van Gogh
"Everyone will be famous for 15 minutes."Andy Warhol
"The world doesn't make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?"Pablo Picasso