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A concise, clever, often paradoxical statement or line of verse. Adjective: epigrammatic.

See also:


From the Greek, "inscription"

Examples and Observations:

  • "The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws."

  • "I am not young enough to know everything."
    (Oscar Wilde)

  • "Arguments are to be avoided; they are always vulgar and often convincing."
    (Oscar Wilde)

  • "No one is completely unhappy at the failure of his best friend."
    (Groucho Marx)

  • "The only 'ism' Hollywood believes in is plagiarism."
    (Dorothy Parker)

  • "Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things, and small people talk about wine."
    (Fran Lebowitz)

  • "Audiences are always better pleased with a smart retort, some joke or epigram, than with any amount of reasoning."
    (Charlotte Perkins Gilman)

  • "What is an epigram? A dwarfish whole, its body brevity, and wit its soul."
    (Samuel Coleridge)

  • "The art of newspaper paragraphing is to stroke a platitude until it purrs like an epigram."
    (Don Marquis)

  • "A brilliant epigram is a solemn platitude gone to a masquerade ball."
    (Lionel Strachey)

  • "Three things must epigrams, like bees, have all:
    A sting and honey and a body small."
    (Latin verse, quoted by J. Symonds, Studies of the Greek Poets, 1877)

  • Renaissance Epigrams: Gall, Vinegar, Salt, and Honey
    "In the Renaissance, George Puttenham remarked that the epigram is a 'short and sweete' form 'in which every mery conceited man might without any long studie or tedious ambage, make his friend sport, and anger his foe, and give a prettie nip, or shew a sharpe conceit [i.e., idea] in few verses' (The Art of English Poesy, 1589). Epigrams of both praise and blame were a popular Renaissance genre, notably in the poetry of Ben Jonson. The critic J.C. Scaliger in his Poetics (1560) divided epigrams into four kinds: gall, vinegar, salt, and honey (that is, an epigram could be bitterly angry, sour, salacious, or sweet)."
    (David Mikics, A New Handbook of Literary Terms. Yale University Press, 2007)

  • Types of Epigrams
    "The Epigram is expressed in various ways:
    A. In the Epigrammatic style. It now refers to a style marked by point and brevity. It does not necessarily involve contrast.
    B. Emphatic assertion. "What I have written, I have written."
    C. Indirect or concealed statement. A kind of mingling of literal and figurative.
    D. Punning
    E. Paradox
    (T. Hunt, Principles of Written Discourse, 1884)
Pronunciation: EP-i-gram
Also Known As: saying
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