form of humour
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Wit is a form of intellectual humor, and a wit is someone skilled in making witty remarks. Forms of wit include the quip and repartee.


  • For when the wine is in, the wit is out.
  • WIT, n. The salt with which the American humorist spoils his intellectual cookery by leaving it out.
  • WITTICISM, n. A sharp and clever remark, usually quoted, and seldom noted; what the Philistine is pleased to call a "joke."
  • Essere la natura de' motti cotale, che essi come la pecora morde deono cosi mordere l'uditore, e non come 'l cane: percio che, se come cane mordesse il motto, non sarebbe motto, ma villania.
    • The nature of wit is such that its bite must be like that of a sheep rather than a dog, for if it were to bite the listener like a dog, it would no longer be wit but abuse.
    • Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron (c. 1350), Sixth Day, Third Story (tr. G. H. McWilliam)
  • Aristotle said * * * melancholy men of all others are most witty.
    • Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), Part I, Section III. Memb. 1. Subsect. 3.
  • We grant, although he had much wit,
    H' was very shy of using it,
    As being loth to wear it out,
    And therefore bore it not about;
    Unless on holy days or so,
    As men their best apparel do.
  • Great wits and valours, like great states,
    Do sometimes sink with their own weights.
  • His wit invites you by his looks to come,
    But when you knock, it never is at home.
  • Great wits are sure to madness near allied,
    And thin partitions do their bounds divide.
    • John Dryden, Absalom and Achitophel (1681), Part I, line 163.
  • As a wit, if not first, in the very first line.
  • To the many, witticisms not only require to be explained, like riddles, but are also like new shoes, which people require to wear many times before they get accustomed to them.
    • Full context: [striving to pervert some poor innocent and ill-used word from its lawful meaning till it ceases to have any at all — worrying some unfortunate idea till, like the hunted hare, it is worried to death — dealing in witticisms whose edge has long since been worn off by constant use ; and truly to the many, witticisms not only require to be explained, like riddles, but are also like new shoes, which people require to wear many times before they get accustomed to them.]
    • Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Francesca Carrara (1834) Chapter 77, combined edition
  • On peut dire que son esprit brille aux dépens de sa mèmoire.
    • One may say that his wit shines at the expense of his memory.
    • Alain-René Lesage, Gil Blas (1715-1735), III, XI. Of Carlos Alonso de la Ventoleria.
  • Wit's an unruly engine, wildly striking
    Sometimes a friend, sometimes the engineer:
    Hast thou the knack? pamper it not with liking;
    But if thou want it, buy it not too deare
    Many affecting wit beyond their power,
    Have got to be a deare fool for an houre.
  • This man [Chesterfield] I thought had been a lord among wits; but I find he is only a wit among lords.
  • Wit: a form of sex display.
    • A. R. Orage, On Love, with Some Aphorisms and Other Essays (London: The Janus Press, 1957), "Aphorisms", p. 61.
  • There's a hell of a distance between wise-cracking and wit. Wit has truth in it; wise-cracking is simply calisthenics with words.
  • So modest plainness sets off sprightly wit,
    For works may have more wit than does 'em good,
    As bodies perish through excess of blood.
  • True wit is nature to advantage dress'd,
    What oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed.
    • Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism (1709), Part II, line 97. "Wit is that which has been often thought, but never before was well expressed." As paraphrased by Johnson, Life of Cowley.
  • Make the doors upon a woman's wit and it will out at the casement; shut that and 'twill out at the key-hole; stop that, 'twill fly with the smoke out at the chimney.
  • Since brevity is the soul of wit,
    And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
    I will be brief.
  • Rudeness is a sauce to his good wit,
    Which gives men stomach to digest his words,
    With better appetite.
  • His eye begets occasion for his wit;
    For every object that the one doth catch,
    The other turns to a mirth-moving jest.
  • To leave this keen encounter of our wits,
    And fall somewhat into a slower method.
  • Those wits that think they have thee, do very oft prove fools; and I, that am sure I lack thee, may pass for a wise man; for what says Quinapalus? "Better a witty fool than a foolish wit."
  • Against their wills what numbers ruin shun,
    Purely through want of wit to be undone!
    Nature has shown by making it so rare,
    That wit's a jewel which we need not wear.
  • As in smooth oil the razor best is whet,
    So wit is by politeness sharpest set;
    Their want of edge from their offence is seen,
    Both pain us least when exquisitely keen.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 883-86.
  • An ounce of wit is worth a pound of sorrow.
  • Que les gens d'esprit sont bêtes.
  • Votre esprit en donne aux autres.
    • Your wit makes others witty.
    • Catherine II, Letter to Voltaire.
  • Don't put too fine a point to your wit for fear it should get blunted.
  • I am a fool, I know it; and yet, Heaven help me, I'm poor enough to be a wit.
  • Wit, now and then, struck smartly, shows a spark.
  • Ev'n wit's a burthen, when it talks too long.
  • Wit will shine
    Through the harsh cadence of a rugged line.
  • Mit wenig Witz und viel Behagen
    Dreht jeder sich im engen Zirkeltanz
    Wie junge Katzen mit dem Schwanz.
    • With little wit and ease to suit them,
      They whirl in narrow circling trails,
      Like kittens playing with their tails.
    • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust, I. 5. 94.
  • Les beaux esprits lernen einander durch dergleichen rencontre erkennen.
    • It is by such encounters that wits come to know each other.
    • Andreas Gryphius, Horribilicribfax, Act IV, scene 7. Voltaire, letter to Thieriot, June 30, 1760, used the expression. See Büchmann, Geflügelte Worte. Ed. 10, p. 123.
  • Wit is the salt of conversation, not the food.
  • At our wittes end.
    • John Heywood, Proverbs, Part I, Chapter VIII. Psalms CVII. 27. ("Their wits").
  • Wit is the clash and reconcilement of incongruities; the meeting of extremes round a corner.
  • Wit, like money, bears an extra value when rung down immediately it is wanted. Men pay severely who require credit.
  • Je n'ai jamais d'esprit qu'au bas de l'escalier.
    • I never have wit until I am below stairs.
    • Jean de La Bruyère, according to J. J. Rousseau. Esprit de l'escalier, backstair wit, is credited to M. de Treville by Pierre Nicole. For use of this phrase see The King's English, p. 32. Note.
  • A small degree of wit, accompanied by good sense, is less tiresome in the long run than a great amount of wit without it.
  • Medio de fonte leporum
    Surgit amari aliquid quod in ipsis floribus angat.
    • In the midst of the fountain of wit there arises something bitter, which stings in the very flowers.
    • Lucretius, IV. 1,133.
  • Mother Wit. (Nature's mother wit).
    • Christopher Marlowe, Prologue to Tamerlaine the Great, Part I. Middleton, Your five Gallants (1607), Act I, scene 1. Dryden, Ode to St. Cecilia. Spenser, Faerie Queene, Book IV, Canto X, Stanza 21. Taming of the Shrew, Act II, scene 1.
  • Have you summoned your wits from wool-gathering?
  • Nul n'aura de l'esprit, hors nous et nos amis.
    • No one shall have wit save we and our friends.
    • Molière, Let Femmes Savantes, III. 2.
  • L'impromptu est justement la pierre de touche de l'esprit.
    • Repartee is precisely the touchstone of the man of wit.
    • Molière, Les Prècieuses Ridicules, X.
  • La raillerie est un discours en faveur de son esprit contre son bon naturel.
    • Raillery is a mode of speaking in favor of one's wit at the expense of one's better nature.
    • Charles de Montesquieu, Pensèes Diverses.
  • Whose wit, in the combat, as gentle as bright,
    Ne'er carried a heart-stain away on its blade.
  • Wit is the most rascally, contemptible, beggarly thing on the face of the earth.
  • A wit with dunces, and a dunce with wits.
  • You beat your pate, and fancy wit will come;
    Knock as you please, there's nobody at home.
  • Some men's wit is like a dark lantern, which serves their own turn and guides them their own way, but is never known (according to the Scripture phrase) either to shine forth before men, or to glorify their Father in heaven.
  • Generally speaking there is more wit than talent in this world. Society swarms with witty people who lack talent.
  • Fine wits destroy themselves with their own plots, in meddling with great affairs of state.
  • Man could direct his ways by plain reason, and support his life by tasteless food; but God has given us wit, and flavour, and brightness, and laughter, and perfumers, to enliven the days of man's pilgrimage, and to "charm his pained steps over the burning marle."
  • Surprise is so essential an ingredient of wit that no wit will bear repetition;—at least the original electrical feeling produced by any piece of wit can never be renewed.
  • One wit, like a knuckle of ham in soup, gives a zest and flavour to the dish, but more than one serves only to spoil the pottage.
  • Wit consists in knowing the resemblance of things which differ, and the difference of things which are alike.
  • It is having in some measure a sort of wit to know how to use the wit of others.
  • It is with wits as with razors, which are never so apt to cut those they are employed on as when they have lost their edge.
  • And wit its honey lent, without the sting.
  • Good wits will jump.
  • He had too thoughtful a wit: like a penknife in too narrow a sheath, too sharp for his body.
    • Izaak Walton, Life of George Herbert. Reported as Herbert's saying about himself.
  • Nae wut without a portion o' impertinence.
  • Though I am young, I scorn to flit
    On the wings of borrowed wit.
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