The Devil's Dictionary

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The Devil's Dictionary is a collection of cynical and pessimistic "definitions" of common everyday words written by Ambrose Bierce. The definitions first appeared in his column in a San Francisco newspaper. It was eventually published in book form and still remains in print today, although due a lack of copyright, it is freely available for download online.[1]

Bierce satirized both liberal and conservative positions with his work and frequently made very public and offensive attacks against religion and the church.


Some examples of his work include:

Aborigine (N):Persons of little worth found cumbering the soil of a newly discovered country. They soon cease to cumber; they fertilize.

Christian (n):One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. One who follows the teachings of Christ insofar as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.

Philosophy:: (n):A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.

Pray (v): To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled on behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.

Rational (adj):Devoid of all delusions save those of observation, experience and reflection.

Religion (n): A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.

Vote (v): The instrument and symbol of a freeman's power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.

See also

Full text of the book at


  1. free download from Project Guttenberg.