Excerpts from The Devil’s Dictionary, compiled by Bierce over a period from 1881 to 1906, and republished by The Folio Society, London, 2003 -
Absurdity A statement of belief manifestly inconsistent with one’s own opinion.
Accident An inevitable occurrence due to the immutability of natural laws.
Actually Perhaps; possibly.
Allah The Mohametan Supreme Being, as distinguished from the Christian, Jewish, and so forth.
Bigot One who is obstinately and zealously attached to a belief that you do not entertain.
Bore A person who talks when you wish him to listen.
Boundary In political geography, an imaginary line between two nations, separating the imaginary rights of one from the imaginary rights of the other.
Christian One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor…
Compulsion The eloquence of power.
Conservative A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.
Contempt The feeling of a prudent man for an enemy who is too formidable safely to be opposed.
Corporation An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.
Decide [one of my favorites – PH] To succumb to the preponderance of one set of influences over another set.
Deliberation [ditto – PH] The act of examining one’s bread to determine which side it is buttered on.
Diplomacy The patriotic art of lying for one’s country.
Disabuse To present your neighbor with another and better error than the one he has deemed it advantageous to embrace.
Effect The second of two phenomena which always occur in the same order. The first, called a Cause, is said to generate the other - which is no more sensible than it would be for one who has never seen a dog except in pursuit of a rabbit to declare the rabbit the cause of the dog.
Friendship A ship big enough to carry two in fair weather, but only one in foul.
Future That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true, and our happiness is assured.
Gravitation The tendency of all bodies to approach one another with a strength proportional to the quantity of matter they contain – the quantity of matter they contain being ascertained by the strength of their tendency to approach one another…
Ignoramus A person unacquainted with certain kinds of knowledge familiar to yourself, and having certain other kinds that you know nothing about.
Immoral Inexpedient… If man’s notions of right and wrong have any other basis than this… if actions have in themselves a moral character apart from and nowise dependent on their consequences – then all philosophy is a lie and reason a disorder of the mind.
Mad Affected by a high degree of intellectual independence;… at odds with the majority; in short, unusual. It is noteworthy that persons are pronounced mad by officials destitute of evidence that [they] themselves are sane.
Pray To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.
Preference A sentiment, or frame of mind, induced by the erroneous belief that one thing is better than another.
Prelate A Church officer having a superior degree of holiness… One of Heaven’s aristocracy. A gentleman of God.
Present That part of eternity dividing the domain of disappointment from the realm of hope.
Proof Evidence having a shade more of plausibility than of unlikelihood. The testimony of two credible witnesses as opposed to that of one.
Saint A dead sinner, revised and edited.