Friday, September 25, 2009

Ambrose Bierce - the Devil's Dictionary #1

Ambrose Bierce wrote several sarcastic, witty definitions. I have posted some related to crime and law here. For more, see .

1. ACCOMPLICE, n. One associated with another in a crime, having guilty knowledge and complicity, as an attorney who defends a criminal, knowing him guilty. This view of the attorney's position in the matter has not hitherto commanded the assent of attorneys, no one having offered them a fee for assenting.

2. CEMETERY, n. An isolated suburban spot where mourners match lies, poets write at a target and stone-cutters spell for a wager.

3. CUI BONO? [Latin] What good would that do me?

4. DEBAUCHEE, n. One who has so earnestly pursued pleasure that he has had the misfortune to overtake it.

5. EMBALM, v.i. To cheat vegetation by locking up the gases upon which it feeds.

6. FUNERAL, n. A pageant whereby we attest our respect for the dead by enriching the undertaker, and strengthen our grief by an expenditure that deepens our groans and doubles our tears.

7. GUILLOTINE, n. A machine which makes a Frenchman shrug his shoulders with good reason.

8. GUNPOWDER, n. An agency employed by civilized nations for the settlement of disputes which might become troublesome if left unadjusted. By most writers the invention of gunpowder is ascribed to the Chinese, but not upon very convincing evidence. Milton says it was invented by the devil to dispel angels with, and this opinion seems to derive some support from the scarcity of angels.

9. HABEAS CORPUS. A writ by which a man may be taken out of jail when confined for the wrong crime.

10. HATRED, n. A sentiment appropriate to the occasion of another's superiority.


  1. Nice definitions :) Enjoyed quite a bit, and have added to my bookmarks already.

  2. Thanks for these. Love the guillotine definition.


  3. Just keep writing this looks like such a wonderful blog.

    I should have something up for you tomorrow.