Ambrose Bierce: Devil's Dictionary

Abrose Bierce,

The Enlarged Devil’s Dictionary

Diese Definitionen erschienen im wesentlichen in den Jahren 1881 bis 1886 im Wasp-Magazin. Die  Lebensgeschichte von Ambrose Bierce ist selbst ein Roman, eine spannende Mischung aus Fakten und Legenden.

Diese Definitionen gefielen mit am besten:


A singular instrument worn at the end of the human arm and commonly thrust into somebody’s pocket.


An officer who produces suspended animation


An automatic, muscular blood pump, figuratively, this useful organ is said to be the sear of emotions and sentiments – a very pretty fancy which, however, is nothing but a survival of a once universal belief. It is now known that the sentiments and emotions reside in the stomach, being evolved from food by chemical action of the gastric fluid. The exact process by which a beefsteak becomes a feeling – tender or not, according to the age of the animal from which it was cut, the successive stages of elaboration through which a caviar sandwich is transmuted to a quaint fancy and reappears as a pungent epigram; the marvellous functional methods of converting a hard-boiled egg into religious contrition, or a cream-puff into a sigh of sensibility – these things have been patiently ascertained by M. Pasteur, and by him exeuroed with convincing lucidity.


The slaying of one human being by another. There are four kinds of homicide: felonious, excusable, justifiable and praiseworthy, but it makes no great difference to the person slain whether it fell by one kind or another – the classification is for advantage of the lawyers.


An unenlightened person who thinks one country better than another.


The activity of a tongue that has no ears.


The end of night and dawn of dejection. The morning was discovered by a Chaldean astronomer, who, finding his observation of the stars unaccountably interrupted, diligently sought the cause and found it. After several centuries of disputation, morning was generally accepted by the scientific as a reasonable cause of the interruption and a constantly recurrent natural phenomenon.


The part of immortality we know about.




In man, the gateway to the soul; in woman, the outlet of the heart.


An inevitable occurrence due to the action of immutable natural laws.


A muscular, well-conditioned fellow. A man who breaks his back to fill his belly.

Adam’s Apple

A protuberance in the throat of man, thoughtfully provided by Nature to keep the rope in place.


That period of life in which we comeuro for the vices that we still cherish by reviling those that we have no longer the enterprise to commit.

Der Lebensabschnitt, in dem wir für die Laster bezahlen, denen wir noch immer anhängen, indem wir diejenigen schmähen, die wir nicht mehr zu begehen vermögen.


A nutritious substance supplied by the bountiful Providence for the fattening of the poor.

Eine nahrhafte Substanz, von der freigiebigen Vorsehung zur Verfügung gestellt um die Armen zu mästen.


In bad company.


The miserable scoundrel who won’t let us.

Der armselige Schuft der uns nicht lässt.


To lay the foundation for a future offence


A man whom women are still sampling

Ein Mann den die Frauen noch ausprobieren.


A preparation that renders the hook more palatable. The best kind is beauty.


One who has relied on the assistance of his friends.


The first an direst of all disasters. As to the nature of it there appears to be no univormity. Castor and Pollux were born from the egg. Pallas came out of a skull. Galatea was once a block of stone, Persilis, who wrote in the tenth century, avers that he grew up out of the ground where a priest ad spilled holy water. It is known that Arimaxus was derived froma hole in the earth, made by a stroke of lightning. Leucomedon was the son o a cavern in Mount Aetna, and I have myself seen a man come out of a wine cellar.


A gastronome of the old school who preserves the simple taste and adheres to the natural diet of the pre-pork period.


A soft indestructible automaton provided by nature to be kicked when things go wrong in the domestic circle.


An excuse for being out late at night and going home drunk in the morning.

Congratu- lation

The civility of envy.


A fool’s substitute for brains.


The time when men of reason go to bed. Certain old men prefer to rise at about that time, taking a cold bath and a long walk with an empty stomach, and otherwise mortifying the flesh. They then point with pride to these practices as the cause of their sturdy health and ripe years; the truth being that they are hearty and old, not because of their habits, but in spite of them. The reason we find only robust persons doing this thing is that it has killed all the others who have tried it.


The ultimate, indivisible unit of matter. It is distinguished from the corpuscle, also the ultimate, indivisible unit of matter, by a closer resemblance to the atom, also the ultimate, indivisible unit of matter. Three great scientific theories of the structure of the universe are the molecular, the corpuscular and the atomic. A fourth affirms, with Haeckel, the condensation or precipitation of matter from ether – whose existence is proved by the condensation or precipitation. The present trend of scientific thought is toward the theory of ions. The ion differs from the molecule, the corpuscle and the atom in that it is an ion. A fifth theory is held by idiots, but it is doubtful if they know any more about the matter than the others.


The ultimate, indivisible unit of matter. (See Molecule.) According to Leibniz, as nearly as he seems willing to be understood, the monad has a body without bulk, and a mind without manifestation – Leibniz knows him by the innate power of considering. He has founded upon him a theory of the universe, which the creature bears without resentment, for the monad is a gentleman. Small as he is, the monad contains all the powers and possibilities needful to his evolution into a German philosopher of the first class – altogether a very capable little fellow. He is not to be confounded with the microbe, or bacillus ; by its inability to discern him, a good microscope shows him to be of an entirely distinct species.