Epigram Examples – Usage & Function

Epigrams are the materialization of a famous William Shakespeare quote that says brevity is the soul of the wit.

Delivering a memorable speech or writing a poem can always be a challenge. But with the help of peppering rhetorical devices such as epigrams in your compositions, it can be a surefire way of making your written compositions unforgettable.

Epigrams are short but packed with wit and humor at the same time. It will definitely create an impact on your audience.

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Learn more about epigrams with the help of this article. We also provided examples and tips on how to create your very own epigram.

Defining Epigram

Epigram is derived from the Greek word epigramma which means to inscribe or inscription.

Epigram is a rhetorical device aimed to be express in a brief manner; however, it should be memorable, interesting, paradoxical, and funny.

Writing epigrams challenges the ability of the writer to deliver witty statements with brevity.

When to Use Epigrams

Epigrams are more effective when you would deliver it at a time where it would be appreciated and that you wouldn’t get eye rolls from the audience. There are some people who do not appreciate hearing witty remarks. It is best if you are able to insert epigrams during the best moments like when you are to present a speech or even just a comeback in conversations.

You can make use of this rhetorical device when you deliver speeches or when you would write a prose/poem.

Epigrams are also widely used in the entertainment industry. You can hear a lot of epigrams, particularly in situational comedies, in dramas, television shows, and films.

The perfect timing of delivering an epigram is important because this makes your epigram memorable and timeless.

Function of Epigram

Epigrams point out the sweet and bitter truths of life. The main function of epigrams is similar to that of proverbs which is to help us to reflect on the world and life. However, epigrams aims to leave a positive impact on the audience with the use of wit and humor but never void of wisdom.

Hearing epigrams at first may amuse the listeners at first, but if an epigram is effective enough, its relevance will soon dawn into the listeners and they will soon realize the depth of its meaning.

How to Create Your Own Epigram

Creating your very own epigram can be quite challenging especially if you are not on the humorous side. However, with the help of this simple tips, you can create your own epigram.

1. If you have a difficulty to find a place to start, you can always refer to famous epigrams. We are providing examples below. You can study previously published epigrams and look at how they were composed.

2. If you have a message you want to convey but you do not want to offend or hurt someone’s feelings, you can do wordplay with the help of epigrams.

3. If you are writing a speech, do not overload with epigrams. Remember that one of the aims of an epigram is to be memorable. Sure, you want to make your speech memorable but also remember that not all people have the capacity to absorb a lot of information. You can make use of an epigram to summarize your entire speech which will be remembered by the audience.

Writing epigrams can be pretty hard since you would really have to make sure that you have provided enough impact to affect the audience. The best thing to do is just keep on practicing. Read more, watch more shows, do not be afraid to make mistakes, widen your horizons, and then you will finally be able to master writing epigrams.

Examples of Epigrams

Below are some examples of epigrams.

Famous Epigrams by Famous People

“Must I do all the evil I can before I learn to shun it? Is it not enough to know the evil to shun it? If not, we should be sincere enough to admit that we love evil too well to give it up.” —Mohandas Gandhi

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds.” — Abraham Lincoln

“The ballot is stronger than the bullet.” — Abraham Lincoln

“Your children need your presence more than your presents.” — Jesse Jackson

“Winners never quit, and quitters never win.” – Lombardi

“The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.” – Audrey Hepburn

“Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put and end to mankind.” – John F. Kennedy

“If we don’t end war, war will end us.” – G. Wells

“What is an Epigram? a dwarfish whole,
Its body brevity, and wit its soul.” — Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“Some can gaze and not be sick
But I could never learn the trick.
There’s this to say for blood and breath;
They give a man a taste for death.” — A. E. Housman

“Little strokes
Fell great oaks.” — Benjamin Franklin

“Happiness is like a butterfly:
the more you chase it, the more it will elude you.
But if you turn your attention to other things,
it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.” – Henry David Thoreau.

“Here lies my wife: here let her lie!
Now she’s at rest – and so am I.” — John Dryden

“It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

“A word to the wise ain’t necessary; it’s the stupid ones who need all the advice.” – Bill Cosby

“Live simply, so that others may simply live.” – Mother Teresa

“I am His Highness’ dog at Kew;
Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?” — Alexander Pope

“I’m tired of Love: I’m still more tired of Rhyme.
But Money gives me pleasure all the time.” — Hilaire Belloc

“I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.” — Nikos Kazantzakis

“To define the beautiful is to misunderstand it.” — Charles Robert Anon

“This Humanist whom no belief constrained
Grew so broad-minded he was scatter-brained.” — J.V. Cunningham

“All things pass
Love and mankind is grass.” — Stevie Smith

“I’m starting with the man in the mirror.” – Michael Jackson

“This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet. Let us resolve that we will not leave our children a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands.” – Barack Obama

“Blessed are the peacemakers.” – Jesus Christ

Epigrams in Literature

“To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wildflower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.” – Auguries of Innocence by William Blake

“Of all my verse, like not a single line;
But like my title, for it is not mine.
That title from a better man I stole:
Ah, how much better, had I stol’n the whole.” – Underwoods: Epigram by Robert Louis Stevenson

“A man said to the universe:
‘Sir, I exist!’
‘However,’ replied the universe,
‘The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation..” – A Man Said to the Universe by Stephen Crane

“So all my best is dressing old words new,
Spending again what is already spent:
For as the sun is daily new and old,
So is my love still telling what is told.” – Sonnet 76 by William Shakespeare

“Both robb’d of air, we both lie in one ground
Both whom one fire had burnt, one water drown’d.” – Hero and Leander by­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ John Donne

Epigrams of Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde’s mind is, perhaps, rich in wit and wisdom since he has written a lot of epigrams. In his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, he has written a total of twelve epigrams. Here are some of his famous epigrams:

“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” – The Picture of Dorian Gray

“Women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly.” – The Picture of Dorian Gray

“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all.” – The Picture of Dorian Gray

“I can resist everything but temptation.”

“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

“As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”

“As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular.”

Epigrams have the capacity to deliver wit and brevity in one package that improves your writing or your speech. We hope that with the help of this article, you will be able to deliver your own epigrams with no sweat at all.

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