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epigram, 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 Martial 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.”
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a short, pungent, and often satirical poem, esp one having a witty and ingenious ending
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Three years later, in an astonishing piece called "Feminism for Men," he wrote, epigrammatically, "Feminism is going to make it possible for the first time for men to be free."
Or as he puts it epigrammatically: "The possibility of there being responsibility in the world, which is bound to the existence of men, is of all objects of responsibility the first" (p.
Conceptismo was characterized by the use of striking metaphors, either expressed concisely and epigrammatically or elaborated into lengthy conceits.
Epigrammatically speaking, we must replace the term "Not Recall" with the term "Recall Redux"--recall leads the way, after which other, probably more powerful, factors take over.
Here is the paradox: the orally delivered story of the marriage is highly literary in its style, tightly organized around internal symmetries, and ends epigrammatically, citing Petrarch for a witty recognition of poetic justice (Che chi prende diletto di far frode, / Non si de' lamentar s'altri l'inganna).
As Gellner (1992: 10) epigrammatically put it: 'A genuine absolutist ideocracy must be socialist; and a genuine, full-blooded socialism must also be an absolutist ideocracy'.
Saluting a show by Andy Warhol in Paris in May 1965, Otto Hahn asserted that "the true subject is not the flowers, or Marilyn Monroe, but the very process of erosion, the anonymity of an empty obsession, the mechanical flattening which ceaselessly repeats the same image emptied of all substance."(8) He also recognized the antithetical force of Warhol's work when he wrote epigrammatically: "Warhol is the machine to kill Romanticism." Roy Lichtenstein, in an interview from 1963, puts the matter less stridendy, but is equally concerned to assert the generality of Pop Art as a stylistic option and its privileged connection with the modes of reproduction current in the contemporary world: "Everybody has called Pop Art |American painting,' but it's actually industrial painting.
he encapsulates epigrammatically the cultural, ethical, moral, economic, and sexual changes wrought by the industrial revolution on a society that had no idea of how to cope with it.
The power of this passage comes, epigrammatically, by the unstated appreciation writer and reader alike share for Lady Mary's inherent literary superiority.
The opening stanzas of "Moonless Calendar," the first offering in Lyubomir Levchev's Sky Break, show more of the spirit of "adaptation" than of "translation," as does "Pentecost" by Vladimir Levchev, including the omission of a brief stanza of the Bulgarian original and inclusion in the English version of portions of Acts 2:2-4 (cited epigrammatically) which were specifically excised by the poet from the original.
When Nietzsche remarked in 'Die "Vernunft" in der Philosophie' in Gotzen-Dammerung (written 1888): 'Ich furchte, wir werden Gott nicht los, weil wir noch an die Grammatik glauben' (Section 5), he was putting his finger epigrammatically on precisely the latter point.