Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary


EPAULET, n. An ornamented badge, serving to distinguish a military officer from the enemy—that is to say, from the officer of lower rank to whom his death would give promotion.

EPICURE, n. An opponent of Epicurus, an abstemious philosopher who, holding that pleasure should be the chief aim of man, wasted no time in gratification from the senses.

EPIGRAM, n. A short, sharp saying in prose or verse, frequently characterized by acidity or acerbity and sometimes by wisdom.

EPITAPH, n. An inscription on a tomb, showing that virtues acquired by death have a retroactive effect. Following is a touching example:

Here lie the bones of Parson Platt,

  Wise, pious, humble and all that,

  Who showed us life as all should live it;

  Let that be said—and God forgive it!


ERUDITION, n. Dust shaken out of a book into an empty skull.