The Devil's Dictionary- Ambrose Bierce

B

BAAL, n.
An old deity formerly much worshiped under various names. As Baal he was popular with the Phoenicians; as Belus or Bel he had the honor to be served by the priest Berosus, who wrote the famous account of the Deluge; as Babel he had a tower partly erected to his glory on the Plain of Shinar. From Babel comes our English word "babble." Under whatever name worshiped, Baal is the Sun- god. As Beelzebub he is the god of flies, which are begotten of the sun's rays on the stagnant water. In Physicia Baal is still worshiped as Bolus, and as Belly he is adored and served with abundant sacrifice by the priests of Guttledom.

BABE or BABY, n.
A misshapen creature of no particular age, sex, or condition, chiefly remarkable for the violence of the sympathies and antipathies it excites in others, itself without sentiment or emotion. There have been famous babes; for example, little Moses, from whose adventure in the bulrushes the Egyptian hierophants of seven centuries before doubtless derived their idle tale of the child Osiris being preserved on a floating lotus leaf.

BACCHUS, n.
A convenient deity invented by the ancients as an excuse for getting drunk.

BACK, n.
That part of your friend which it is your privilege to contemplate in your adversity.

BACKBITE, v.t.
To speak of a man as you find him when he can't find you.

BAIT, n.
A preparation that renders the hook more palatable. The best kind is beauty.

BAPTISM, n.
A sacred rite of such efficacy that he who finds himself in heaven without having undergone it will be unhappy forever. It is performed with water in two ways-- by immersion, or plunging, and by aspersion, or sprinkling.

BAROMETER, n.
An ingenious instrument which indicates what kind of weather we are having.

BARRACK, n.
A house in which soldiers enjoy a portion of that of which it is their business to deprive others.

BASILISK, n.
The cockatrice. A sort of serpent hatched form the egg of a cock. The basilisk had a bad eye, and its glance was fatal. Many infidels deny this creature's existence, but Semprello Aurator saw and handled one that had been blinded by lightning as a punishment for having fatally gazed on a lady of rank whom Jupiter loved. Juno afterward restored the reptile's sight and hid it in a cave. Nothing is so well attested by the ancients as the existence of the basilisk, but the cocks have stopped laying.

BASTINADO, n.
The act of walking on wood without exertion.

BATH, n.
A kind of mystic ceremony substituted for religious worship, with what spiritual efficacy has not been determined.

BATTLE, n.
A method of untying with the teeth of a political knot that would not yield to the tongue.

BEARD, n.
The hair that is commonly cut off by those who justly execrate the absurd Chinese custom of shaving the head.

BEAUTY, n.
The power by which a woman charms a lover and terrifies a husband.

BEFRIEND, v.t.
To make an ingrate.

BEG, v.
To ask for something with an earnestness proportioned to the belief that it will not be given.

BEGGAR, n.
One who has relied on the assistance of his friends.

BEHAVIOR, n.
Conduct, as determined, not by principle, but by breeding. 

BELLADONNA, n.
In Italian a beautiful lady; in English a deadly poison. A striking example of the essential identity of the two tongues.

BENEFACTOR, n.
One who makes heavy purchases of ingratitude, without, however, materially affecting the price, which is still within the means of all.

BERENICE'S HAIR, n.
A constellation (Coma Berenices) named in honor of one who sacrificed her hair to save her husband.

BIGAMY, n.
A mistake in taste for which the wisdom of the future will adjudge a punishment called trigamy.

BIGOT, n.
One who is obstinately and zealously attached to an opinion that you do not entertain.

BILLINGSGATE, n.
The invective of an opponent.

BIRTH, n.
The first and direst of all disasters. As to the nature of it there appears to be no uniformity. Castor and Pollux were born from the egg. Pallas came out of a skull. Galatea was once a block of stone. Peresilis, who wrote in the tenth century, avers that he grew up out of the ground where a priest had spilled holy water. It is known that Arimaxus was derived from a hole in the earth, made by a stroke of lightning. Leucomedon was the son of a cavern in Mount Aetna, and I have myself seen a man come out of a wine cellar.

BLACKGUARD, n.
A man whose qualities, prepared for display like a box of berries in a market-- the fine ones on top-- have been opened on the wrong side. An inverted gentleman.

BLANK- VERSE, n.
Unrhymed iambic pentameters-- the most difficult kind of English verse to write acceptably; a kind, therefore, much affected by those who cannot acceptably write any kind.

BODY- SNATCHER, n.
A robber of grave- worms. One who supplies the young physicians with that with which the old physicians have supplied the undertaker. The hyena.

BONDSMAN, n.
A fool who, having property of his own, undertakes to become responsible for that entrusted to another to a third. Philippe of Orleans wishing to appoint one of his favorites, a dissolute nobleman, to a high office, asked him what security he would be able to give. "I need no bondsmen," he replied, "for I can give you my word of honor." "And pray what may be the value of that?" inquired the amused Regent. "Monsieur, it is worth its weight in gold."

BORE, n.
A person who talks when you wish him to listen.

BOTANY, n.
The science of vegetables-- those that are not good to eat, as well as those that are. It deals largely with their flowers, which are commonly badly designed, inartistic in color, and ill- smelling.

BOTTLE- NOSED, adj.
Having a nose created in the image of its maker.

BOUNDARY, n.
In political geography, an imaginary line between two nations, separating the imaginary rights of one from the imaginary rights of the other.

BOUNTY, n.
The liberality of one who has much, in permitting one who has nothing to get all that he can.

BRAHMA, n.
He who created the Hindoos, who are preserved by Vishnu and destroyed by Siva-- a rather neater division of labor than is found among the deities of some other nations. The Abracadabranese, for example, are created by Sin, maintained by Theft and destroyed by Folly. The priests of Brahma, like those of Abracadabranese, are holy and learned men who are never naughty.

BRAIN, n.
An apparatus with which we think what we think. That which distinguishes the man who is content to be something from the man who wishes to do something. A man of great wealth, or one who has been pitchforked into high station, has commonly such a headful of brain that his neighbors cannot keep their hats on. In our civilization, and under our republican form of government, brain is so highly honored that it is rewarded by exemption from the cares of office.

BRANDY, n.
A cordial composed of one part thunder- and-lightning, one part remorse, two parts bloody murder, one part death- hell-and- the- grave and four parts clarified Satan. Dose, a headful all the time. Brandy is said by Dr. Johnson to be the drink of heroes. Only a hero will venture to drink it.

BRIDE, n.
A woman with a fine prospect of happiness behind her.

BRUTE, n.
See HUSBAND.