The Most Famous Quotes of All Time

These passages are remembered for their power and directness

Young tree in stone wall
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Reading quotes from famous people can entertain or amuse us, it can inspire us to emulate them, or it can enliven our curiosity about these folks and encourage us to dig deeper into their histories, uncovering untold riches.

The most famous quotes are powerful, but they also are simple and direct, and that directness is part of their enduring fascination. The following quotes—from poems, essays, plays, and speeches—have survived for years, and in some cases for centuries, because they have struck a chord in many people.

 

01
of 10

William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth - portrait
Culture Club / Getty Images

English Romantic poet (1770-1850) from his poem "The Excursion":

"The good die first,
And they whose hearts are dry as summer dust
Burn to the socket."

02
of 10

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Bettmann / Contributor/Getty Images 

American essayist and poet (1803-1882) from his essay "Society and Solitude":

"Hitch your wagon to a star."

03
of 10

John Keats

John Keats
 Wikimedia Commons

English Romantic poet (1795-1821) from his poem "Endymion":

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever: Its loveliness increases; it will never Pass into nothingness."

04
of 10

Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope
Wikimedia Commons 

English poet (1688-1744) from his poem "An Essay on Criticism":

"Good nature and good sense must ever join;
To err is human; to forgive, divine."

05
of 10

Socrates

Socrates statue
Rex_Wholster / Getty Images

Greek philosopher (470 B.C.-399 B.C.) from a speech:

"The unexamined life is not worth living."

06
of 10

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin
 WaffOzzy/Getty Images

American statesman and author (1706-1790) from his "Poor Richard's Almanack":

"God helps those that help themselves."

07
of 10

Robert Frost

Robert Frost
Hulton Archive / Getty Images

American poet (1874-1963) from his poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening":

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."

 

08
of 10

Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling
 Evening Standard / Stringer

English poet and writer (1865-1936) from his poem "The Ballad of East and West":

"Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat."

09
of 10

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln
Hulton Archive / Getty Images

American president (1809-1865) from a speech (time and place debated):

"You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time."

10
of 10

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare Oval
jessekarjalainen / Getty Images

English playwright (1564-1616) from Juliet in "Romeo and Juliet":

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."