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epigram (EP-i-gram) noun

A short witty saying, often in verse.

[From Middle English, from Latin epigramma, from Greek epigramma, from epigraphein (to write, inscribe), from epi- (upon, after) + graphein (to write). Other words originating from the same root are graphite, paragraph, program, and topography.]

According to poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge,

What is an epigram? A dwarfish whole; Its body brevity, and wit its soul.

Here is one from Benjamin Franklin that truly demonstrates the power of a pithy epigram:

Little strokes Fell great oaks.

"In fairness, Nehru should be credited with one classic epigram. Reacting with undisguised culture shock to his discovery of America after a trip there in 1949, Nehru said: 'One should never visit America for the first time.' The closest Indira Gandhi came to a good epigram was probably in her answer to an American journalist in 1971 about why she had refused to meet with Pakistan's General Yahya Khan: 'You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.'" Shashi Tharoor; India's Leaders Aren't Very Often Funny; International Herald Tribune (France); Feb 27, 2002.

"Maugham's dictum that if you want to eat well in England you have to eat breakfast three times a day was no doubt an epigram for an epigram's sake." Jonathan Meades; Meades Eats Britain From A-Z; The Times (London, UK); Feb 22, 2003.

This week's theme: words related to writing.


If you are planning for one year, grow rice. If you are planning for 20 years, grow trees. If you are planning for centuries, grow men. -Chinese proverb

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