30 Short (But Not-Necessarily-Sweet) Things Oscar Wilde Said Best

"The truth is rarely pure and never simple."

oscar wilde quotes

Life advice to anyone who writes or speaks: Be more like Oscar Wilde. I mean, you can’t. He was way better at speaking and writing than all of you.

But what strikes me most in compiling a compendium of his wittiest remarks is this: He kept it short.

It was Shakespeare who wrote brevity is the soul of wit but Wilde who truly executed on the notion. And I’m reminded of the Irish writer and bon vivant every time I scroll down my Facebook newsfeed.


No, not because so many of you sound like him. Not at all, in fact. But amid the blather and the overwrought and the bad grammar (the bad grammar!) and the over-earnest and the too-on-the-nose and the too-vague and the regurgitated and the, “can you please wrap this up?” and the “you didn’t have to tell us that at all,” I just think:

Oscar Wilde would have been way better at Facebook than any of us.

He also probably wouldn’t have bothered. Maybe he would have said, "Social media is an excellent way for you and your neighbor to each think the other is living better when, in fact, neither of you are." (I flatter myself but who else is going to do it?)


I’m not going to school you on his life or his work or any of that. You have the Internet. Rather, be schooled by him, in the art of succinct, half-smiling lines with flair. Here are 30 Oscar Wilde quotes that say everything we're thinking.

Five words or fewer

1. "To define is to limit."

2. "Who, being loved, is poor?"



"Everything in moderation, including moderation."

4. "Only the shallow know themselves."

5. "Everything popular is wrong."

6. "Hearts live by being wounded."

10 words or fewer


"Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much."

8. "When good Americans die, they go to Paris."

9. "The truth is rarely pure and never simple."


10. "To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up."

11. "The suspense is terrible. I hope it will last."


"A good friend will always stab you in the front."

13. "The basis of optimism is sheer terror."

14. "Irony is wasted on the stupid."

15. "Illusion is the first of all pleasures."

15 words or fewer


16. "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."

17. "Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious: both are disappointed."


"Every woman is a rebel, and usually in wild revolt against herself."

19. "I like men who have a future and women who have a past."


20. "America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between."

21. "One can always be kind to people about whom one cares nothing."

25 words or fewer


"If I am occasionally a little over-dressed, I make up for it by being always immensely over-educated."



"A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal."

24. "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”

25. "I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train."


26. "Music makes one feel so romantic — at least it always gets on one's nerves, which is the same thing nowadays."


"I don't want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them."



"Life is never fair, and perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not."

30 words or fewer

29. "When one is in love, one always begins by deceiving one's self, and one always ends by deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance."

30. "I don't like compliments, and I don't see why a man should think he is pleasing a woman enormously when he says to her a whole heap of things that he doesn't mean."


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