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Words can incite anger or invoke passion. They can bring people together or tear them apart. Words can uphold the truth or nurture a lie. We use words to encompass history, to describe the natural universe, and even to conjure realistic visions of things that exist only in fantasy. In fact, in some mythology, spoken words are thought to be so powerful that they can create worlds, creatures, and human beings. Here are some quotes about words from writers, poets, political figures, philosophers, and other notable minds.
"All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind."
-Kahlil Gibran (from "Sand and Foam")
"As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence."
"Be careful of the words you say,
Keep them short and sweet.
You never know, from day to day,
Which ones you'll have to eat."
"A great many people think that polysyllables are a sign of intelligence."
"But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think."
-George Gordon, Lord Byron
"By words we learn thoughts, and by thoughts we learn life."
-Jean Baptiste Girard
"Colors fade, temples crumble, empires fall, but wise words endure."
"Duty is the sublimest word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less."
-Robert E. Lee
"For me, words are a form of action, capable of influencing change. Their articulation represents a complete, lived experience."
"The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."
"Good words are worth much, and cost little."
"However many holy words you read,
However many you speak,
What good will they do you
If you do not act on upon them?"
"I like good strong words that mean something."
-Louisa May Alcott (from "Little Women")
"If language is as inextricably tied up with consciousness as it seems to be, then the continuing diminishment of our inclination to use it to express in letters the times in which we live could mean that an element of human consciousness itself is on the verge of disappearing."
"If words are to enter men's minds and bear fruit, they must be the right words shaped cunningly to pass men's defenses and explode silently and effectually within their minds."
-J. B. Phillips
"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."
"If you would be pungent, be brief; for it is with words as with sunbeams-the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn."
"In a sense, words are encyclopedias of ignorance because they freeze perceptions at one moment in history and then insist we continue to use these frozen perceptions when we should be doing better."
-Edward de Bono
"It has not been for nothing that the word has remained man's principal toy and tool: without the meanings and values it sustains, all man's other tools would be worthless."
"It seems to me that those songs that have been any good, I have nothing much to do with the writing of them. The words have just crawled down my sleeve and come out on the page."
"It's always a bit of a struggle to get the words right, whether we're a Hemingway or a few fathoms below his level."
-Rene J. Cappon
"Kind words are a creative force, a power that concurs in the building up of all that is good, and energy that showers blessings upon the world."
-Lawrence G. Lovasik
"The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do."
"My task which I am trying to achieve is by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel-it is, before all, to make you see. That-and no more, and it is everything."
"Often when I write I am trying to make words do the work of line and color. I have the painter's sensitivity to light. Much… of my writing is verbal painting."
"One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can't utter."
-James Earl Jones
"Our words should be purrs instead of hisses."
-Kathrine Palmer Peterson
"Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary."
"The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment."
"The six most important words: I admit I made a mistake.
The five most important words: You did a good job.
The four most important words: What is your opinion?
The three most important words: If you please.
The two most important words: Thank you.
The one least important word: I."
"So difficult it is to show the various meanings and imperfections of words when we have nothing else but words to do it with."
"The teachings of elegant sayings should be collected when one can. For the supreme gift of words of wisdom, any price will be paid."
"To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the music the words make."
"Words are the model, words are the tools, words are the boards, words are the nails."
"Watch your thoughts, they become your words
Watch your words, they become your actions
Watch your actions, they become your habits
Watch your habits, they become your character
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny."
"When I read great literature, great drama, speeches, or sermons, I feel that the human mind has not achieved anything greater than the ability to share feelings and thoughts through language."
-James Earl Jones
"A word is dead
When it is said,
I say it just
Begins to live
-Emily Dickinson ("A Word is Dead")
"Words are chameleons, which reflect the color of their environment."
"Words are not as satisfactory as we should like them to be, but, like our neighbors, we have got to live with them and must make the best and not the worst of them."
"Words are potent weapons for all causes, good or bad."
"Words are the most powerful thing in the universe… Words are containers. They contain faith, or fear, and they produce after their kind."
"Words do two major things: They provide food for the mind and create light for understanding and awareness."-Jim Rohn
"Words, like nature, half reveal and half conceal the soul within."
-Alfred, Lord Tennyson
"Words may show a man's wit, but actions his meaning."
"Words-so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become, in the hands of one who knows how to combine them!"
"A writer lives in awe of words for they can be cruel or kind, and they can change their meanings right in front of you. They pick up flavors and odors like butter in a refrigerator."
"You see these dictators on their pedestals, surrounded by the bayonets of their soldiers and the truncheons of their police. Yet in their hearts there is unspoken-unspeakable!-fear. They are afraid of words and thoughts! Words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home, all the more powerful because they are forbidden. These terrify them. A little mouse-a little tiny mouse!-of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic."