The Devil's Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce

A

ABASEMENT, n.
A decent and customary mental attitude in the presence of wealth or power. Peculiarly appropriate in an employee when addressing an employer.

ABATIS, n.
Rubbish in front of a fort, to prevent the rubbish outside from molesting the rubbish inside.

ABDICATION, n.
An act whereby a sovereign attests his sense of the high temperature of the throne.

ABDOMEN, n.
The temple of the god Stomach, in whose worship, with sacrificial rights, all true men engage. From women this ancient faith commands but a stammering assent. They sometimes minister at the altar in a half- hearted and ineffective way, but true reverence for the one deity that men really adore they know not. If woman had a free hand in the world's marketing the race would become graminivorous.

ABILITY, n.
The natural equipment to accomplish some small part of the meaner ambitions distinguishing able men from dead ones. In the last analysis ability is commonly found to consist mainly in a high degree of solemnity. Perhaps, however, this impressive quality is rightly appraised; it is no easy task to be solemn.

ABNORMAL adj.
Not conforming to standard. In matters of thought and conduct, to be independent is to be abnormal, to be abnormal is to be detested. Wherefore the lexicographer adviseth a striving toward the straiter [sic] resemblance of the Average Man than he hath to himself. Whoso attaineth thereto shall have peace, the prospect of death and the hope of Hell.

ABORIGINIES, n.
Persons of little worth found cumbering the soil of a newly discovered country. They soon cease to cumber; they fertilize.

ABRIDGE, v.t.
To shorten.
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for
people to abridge their king, a decent respect for the opinions of
mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel
them to the separation.
Oliver Cromwell

ABRUPT, adj.
Sudden, without ceremony, like the arrival of a cannon shot and the departure of the soldier whose interests are most affected by it. Dr. Samuel Johnson beautifully said of another author's ideas that they were "concatenated without abruption."

ABSCOND, v.i.
To "move in a mysterious way," commonly with the property of another.

ABSENT, adj.
Peculiarly exposed to the tooth of detraction; vilifed; hopelessly in the wrong; superseded in the consideration and affection of another.

ABSENTEE, n.
A person with an income who has had the forethought to remove himself from the sphere of exaction.

ABSOLUTE, adj.
Independent, irresponsible. An absolute monarchy is one in which the sovereign does as he pleases so long as he pleases the assassins. Not many absolute monarchies are left, most of them having been replaced by limited monarchies, where the sovereign's power for evil (and for good) is greatly curtailed, and by republics, which are governed by chance.

ABSTAINER, n.
A weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure. A total abstainer is one who abstains from everything but abstention, and especially from inactivity in the affairs of others.

ABSURDITY, n.
A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one's own opinion.

ACADEME, n.
An ancient school where morality and philosophy were taught.

ACADEMY, n. [from ACADEME]
A modern school where football is taught.

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

ACCOMPLICE, n.
One associated with another in a crime, having guilty knowledge and complicity, as an attorney who defends a criminal, knowing him guilty. This view of the attorney's position in the matter has not hitherto commanded the assent of attorneys, no one having offered them a fee for assenting.

ACCORD, n.
Harmony.

ACCORDION, n.
An instrument in harmony with the sentiments of an assassin.

ACCOUNTABILITY, n.
The mother of caution.

ACCUSE, v.t.
To affirm another's guilt or unworth; most commonly as a justification of ourselves for having wronged him.

ACEPHALOUS, adj.
In the surprising condition of the Crusader who absently pulled at his forelock some hours after a Saracen scimitar had, unconsciously to him, passed through his neck, as related by de Joinville.

ACHIEVEMENT, n.
The death of endeavor and the birth of disgust.

ACKNOWLEDGE, v.t.
To confess. Acknowledgement of another's faults is the highest duty imposed by our love of truth.

ACQUAINTANCE, n.
A person whom we know well enough to borrow from, but not well enough to lend to. A degree of friendship called slight when its object is poor or obscure, and intimate when he is rich or famous.

ACTUALLY, adv.
Perhaps; possibly.

ADAGE, n.
Boned wisdom for weak teeth.

ADAMANT, n.
A mineral frequently found beneath a corset. Soluble in solicitate of gold.

ADDER, n.
A species of snake. So called from its habit of adding funeral outlays to the other expenses of living.

ADHERENT, n.
A follower who has not yet obtained all that he expects to get.

ADMINISTRATION, n.
An ingenious abstraction in politics, designed to receive the kicks and cuffs due to the premier or president. 

ADMIRAL, n.
That part of a war- ship which does the talking while the figure- head does the thinking.

ADMIRATION, n.
Our polite recognition of another's resemblance to ourselves.

ADMONITION, n.
Gentle reproof, as with a meat- axe. Friendly warning.

ADORE, v.t.
To venerate expectantly.

ADVICE, n.
The smallest current coin.

AFFLICTION, n.
An acclimatizing process preparing the soul for another and better world.

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

AGITATOR, n.
A statesman who shakes the fruit trees of his neighbors-- to dislodge the worms.

AIM, n.
The task we set our wishes to.

AIR, n.
A nutritious substance supplied by a bountiful Providence for the fattening of the poor.

ALDERMAN, n.
An ingenious criminal who covers his secret thieving with a pretence of open marauding.

ALIEN, n.
An American sovereign in his probationary state.

ALLAH, n.
The Mahometan Supreme Being, as distinguished from the Christian, Jewish, and so forth.

ALLIANCE, n.
In international politics, the union of two thieves who have their hands so deeply inserted in each other's pockets that they cannot separately plunder a third.

ALLIGATOR, n.
The crocodile of America, superior in every detail to the crocodile of the effete monarchies of the Old World. Herodotus says the Indus is, with one exception, the only river that produces crocodiles, but they appear to have gone West and grown up with the other rivers. From the notches on his back the alligator is called a sawrian.

ALONE, adj.
In bad company.

ALTAR, n.
The place whereupon the priest formerly raveled out the small intestine of the sacrificial victim for purposes of divination and cooked its flesh for the gods. The word is now seldom used, except with reference to the sacrifice of their liberty and peace by a male and a female fool.

AMBIDEXTROUS, adj.
Able to pick with equal skill a right- hand pocket or a left.

AMBITION, n.
An overmastering desire to be vilified by enemies while living and made ridiculous by friends when dead.

AMNESTY, n.
The state's magnanimity to those offenders whom it would be too expensive to punish.

ANOINT, v.t.
To grease a king or other great functionary already sufficiently slippery.
As sovereigns are anointed by the priesthood,
So pigs to lead the populace are greased good.
Judibras

ANTIPATHY, n.
The sentiment inspired by one's friend's friend.

APHORISM, n.
Predigested wisdom.

APOLOGIZE, v.i.
To lay the foundation for a future offence.

APOSTATE, n.
A leech who, having penetrated the shell of a turtle only to find that the creature has long been dead, deems it expedient to form a new attachment to a fresh turtle.

APOTHECARY, n.
The physician's accomplice, undertaker's benefactor and grave worm's provider.

APPEAL, v.t.
In law, to put the dice into the box for another throw.

APPETITE, n.
An instinct thoughtfully implanted by Providence as a solution to the labor question.

APPLAUSE, n.
The echo of a platitude.

APRIL FOOL, n.
The March fool with another month added to his folly.

ARCHBISHOP, n.
An ecclesiastical dignitary one point holier than a bishop.

ARCHITECT, n.
One who drafts a plan of your house, and plans a draft of your money.

ARDOR, n.
The quality that distinguishes love without knowledge.

ARENA, n.
In politics, an imaginary rat- pit in which the statesman wrestles with his record.

ARISTOCRACY, n.
Government by the best men. (In this sense the word is obsolete; so is that kind of government.) 

ARMOR, n.
The kind of clothing worn by a man whose tailor is a blacksmith.

ARRAYED, pp.
Drawn up and given an orderly disposition, as a rioter hanged on a lamppost.

ARREST, v.t.
Formally to detain one accused of unusualness.
God made the world in six days and was arrested on the seventh.

ARSENIC, n.
A kind of cosmetic greatly affected by the ladies, whom it greatly affects in turn.

ARTLESSNESS, n.
A certain engaging quality to which women attain by long study and severe practice upon the admiring male, who is pleased to fancy it resembles the candid simplicity of his young.

ASPERSE, v.t.
Maliciously to ascribe to another vicious actions which one has not had the temptation and opportunity to commit.

ASS, n.
A public singer with a good voice but no ear. In Virginia City, Nevada, he is called the Washoe Canary, in Dakota, the Senator, and everywhere the Donkey. The animal is widely and variously celebrated in the literature, art and religion of every age and country; no other so engages and fires the human imagination as this noble vertebrate. 

AUCTIONEER, n.
The man who proclaims with a hammer that he has picked a pocket with his tongue.

AUSTRALIA, n.
A country lying in the South Sea, whose industrial and commercial development has been unspeakably retarded by an unfortunate dispute among geographers as to whether it is a continent or an island.

AVERNUS, n.
The lake by which the ancients entered the infernal regions. The fact that access to the infernal regions was obtained by a lake is believed by the learned Marcus Ansello Scrutator to have suggested the Christian rite of baptism by immersion. This, however, has been shown by Lactantius to be an error.