(redirected from Epigrams)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.
Related to Epigrams: Proverbs, riddles


a short, polished, pithy saying, usually in verse, often with a satiric or paradoxical twist at the end. The term was originally applied by the Greeks to the inscriptions on stones. The epigrams of the Latin poet MartialMartial
(Marcus Valerius Martialis) , c.A.D. 40–c.A.D. 104, Roman epigrammatic poet, b. Bilbilis, Spain. After A.D. 64 he lived in Rome for many years, winning fame by his wit and poetic gifts.
..... Click the link for more information.
 established the form for many later writers. In England the epigram flourished in the work of innumerable poets including Donne, Herrick, Ben Jonson, Pope, Byron, Coleridge, and Walter Savage Landor. Great German epigrammatists include Logau, Lessing, and Herder. In 18th-century France, Boileau-Despréaux, Lebrun, and Voltaire excelled in the form. Poets of the 20th cent. who are noted for their epigrams include Yeats, Pound, Roy Campbell, and Ogden Nash. One of the most brilliant of prose epigrammatists was Oscar Wilde. His works are studded with epigrams, such as "I can resist everything except temptation."



(1) In classical poetry, a short lyric poem of unspecified content written in the elegiac distich form. Eventually epigrams were written on certain specific themes. For example, they were often written as inscriptions on objects offered to the gods. Some epigrams were didactic, epitaphial, descriptive, or satirical in theme, while others were devoted to love or the joys of the table.

In Greek literature the epigram reached its peak in the work of the Hellenistic poets of the third century B.C. to the first century A.D. These made up the larger part of the Greek Anthology, a work in 16 books. In Roman literature the epigram flourished in the satirical works of Martial in the first century A.D The traditions of the classical epigram were continued in the Byzantine and Latin literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Later these traditions were only occasionally revived, notably in Goethe’s Venetian Epigrams.

(2) In modern European poetry, a short poem usually based on the contrast of a gradual exposition and a final witticism. Epigrams of this type are found in French poetry of the 16th and 17th centuries, based on motifs derived from Martial. They flourished in the 18th century in the works of Voltaire, J.-B. Rousseau, G. E. Lessing, R. Burns, and A. P. Sumarokov. A nontraditional epigram,which developed parallel to the traditional one, was written in direct response to topical, often political events. A. S. Pushkin wrote epigrams of both types. The first type includes works such as “Movement” and “The Curious One,” while the second type includes epigrams on A. A. Arakcheev and F. V. Bulgarin.

By the mid-19th century epigrams of the traditional type began to die out, while those of the topical variety continued as a minor genre. Topical epigrams were written by several 19th-century Russian writers, including D. D. Minaev, and are represented in Soviet literature by the work of A. Arkhangel’skii and S. Vasil’ev.


Grecheskaia epigramma. Edited by F. A. Petrovskii. Moscow, 1960.
Russkaia epigramma vtoroi poloviny XVII—nach. XX v. Leningrad, 1975.



a short, pungent, and often satirical poem, esp one having a witty and ingenious ending
References in classic literature ?
The machinery it has set up for the detection of crime is miserably ineffective--and yet only invent a moral epigram, saying that it works well, and you blind everybody to its blunders from that moment.
Stephen had fallen by mistake into his habit of playful appeal to Maggie, and she could not repress the answering flush and epigram.
Ludwig, 1963, argues brilliantly that several of the epigrams are Hellenistic and not by Plato, though he is less persuasive in denying that the epigram to Dion of Syracuse might also be erotic.
254 epigrams comprise book 8 of the Greek Anthology.
His epigrams have outlasted his philosophy, tainted as it became by association with German nationalism and Nazism.
Martin's) exquisitely mixes essay, memoir, fiction, and a slew of Wildean epigrams ("Lack calls forth desire, but it is desire that conjures lack").
Within a few seconds, the room seems to be closing in, and the epigrams splashed across its interior - some angrily menacing, others coolly mocking - make you feel as if you'd accidentally strayed onto a shooting range with a bull's eye pinned to your back.
Firing off his caustic, cynical observations and witty epigrams, he comes across as a modern day Oscar Wilde, a curious mix of naked aggression and high camp.
If you enjoy reading the aphorisms, epigrams, and wise or witty sayings by artists and others that appear on the Verso page of each month's SchoolArts, you will like this handsomely designed small format publication.
They have decisively withdrawn Aesop's Fables from children, and present them instead as the equivalent of a journeyman artist's pattern book, supplying sallies, anecdotes, and epigrams for the party piece, the political speech, the satirist's diatribe, the cleverclogs op-ed writer.
Similarly, in "The Book of Epigrams, 1978-82" we find pieces whose irony and craft are reminiscent of many of the gems in the Greek Anthology.
Although the analysis is not specifically cultural, chemical, psychological, historical, or political, these facets are usually acknowledged, if only in the well-chosen epigrams that adorn each chapter.