The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







This article is about quoting. For information about the punctuation mark, see Quotation mark

A quotation is a fragment of a human expression that is being referred to by somebody else. Like a paraphrase, a quotation is introduced by a verbum dicendi. Most often a quotation is taken from literature, but sentences from speechs, dialogue from films, and lines from song lyrics are also used. Aside from simply using words a quotation can also refer to any use of a piece of an artistic work in another place. This can include elements of a painting, scene from a movie and sections from a musical composition.

A typical, and perhaps ideal, quotation is usually short and commonly only one sentence long. There are two broad categories which most quotations fall into, beauty and truth, although some quotations fit equally well into both these groups. 'Beautiful' quotations are words remembered for their aesthetically pleasing use of language, whereas many other quotations are remembered because they are thought to express some universal truth . These latter quotations are often called maxims or aphorisms and they are highly regarded for being pithy renderings of ideas that most people have but most have not been able to express so clearly. A third type of quotation may be any line which merely reminds the person who quotes it of a particularly memorable work, sometimes making a subtle comparison to the situation or topic at hand.


"Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; "
Ode To Autumn, John Keats


"Authority is never without hate."
Ion, Euripides


"Abandon all hope, whoever enters here."
Inferno III, 9, Dante Alighieri - Inscribed above the gates of Hell

Quotation is used for a variety of reasons; to pay homage to the original work or author, to illuminate the meaning of the work it is being quoted in, to make the user of the quotation seem well-read and even to ridicule the original author. Proverbs are anonymous quotations that have survived in oral form. They are usually an important part of a country's culture and are often significantly older than much of that country's other literature.

The art of quotation is fraught with difficulties. If the source of a quotation is not given it can lead readers to think that the author using the quotation originated the thought or that he is being dishonest. Some people are thought to have said certain things but there is no evidence of theses words in any of their surviving writings, when this is the case the words have to merely be attributed to them. Too much quotation can lead a reader to think the author does not have any original ideas. Many quotations are routinely incorrect or attributed to the wrong authors. Quotations from obscure writers are often attributed to far more famous writers by lax quoters. Good examples of this are Winston Churchill who gets many political quotations of uncertain origin given to him and Oscar Wilde who has said far more witty things then he has ever had the time for.

"If, with the literate, I am
Impelled to try an epigram,
I never seek to take the credit;
We all assume that Oscar said it."
Dorothy Parker

Deliberate misquotation is very common either through the fact that a misquotation is much better known than the original or simply because the misquotation fits the situation better. Possibly worse than misquotation is inappropriate quotation, where an author's words are taken out of context and are used to support a position or idea that the author would never have agreed with and was not the author's intention. In case of extensive quoting from a work one needs to consider copyright. Famous quotations are frequently collected in books either for reference of the correct quotation and author or to entertain and inspire the readers. To this end daily quotations are often included in diaries and on calendars.

A sister project of Wikimedia Foundation called Wikiquote was created on June 27, 2003 as a free online encyclopedia of quotations in every language. Sententiae is another free and open source project based on user-edited quotations in all languages.

There are many other quotation sites on the World Wide Web. However, very few of them seem to facilitate accurate information and correct citation.

"I hate quotation. Tell me what you know."
Journals, Ralph Waldo Emerson
"I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation."
George Bernard Shaw, attributed
"Quotation, n: The act of repeating erroneously the words of another."
The Devil's Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce

Quotation can also be used for comedic purposes, and can be taken from any context, book, film, remembered conversation etc.

"We messed up big time on sunday, I had sponsors in the stand, and im huggin and holding hands, and im kissin them in the ear and praying for a good showin, and whatta we do!? We end up lookin like a monkey fuckin a football out there!": Days of Thunder

Quotations are often very short and cryptic, which makes them ideal for automated writing experiments. Proverb Generator, for example, can generate a quote that will contain any expression you submit. The trouble is that many of these quotes do actually make sense. That is another proof that the beauty - or truth - is in the eye of the beholder.

External links

Wikiquote logo

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