Quotations about   boasting

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Wisdom is by far the greatest part of joy,
and reverence toward the gods must be safeguarded.
The mighty words of the proud are paid in full
with mighty blows of fate, and at long last
those blows will teach us wisdom.

[πολλῷ τὸ φρονεῖν εὐδαιμονίας
πρῶτον ὑπάρχει. χρὴ δὲ τά γ᾽ εἰς θεοὺς
μηδὲν ἀσεπτεῖν. μεγάλοι δὲ λόγοι
μεγάλας πληγὰς τῶν ὑπεραύχων
ἀποτίσαντες
γήρᾳ τὸ φρονεῖν ἐδίδαξαν.]

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 1348ff [Chorus] (441 BC) [tr. Fagles (1982), l. 1466ff]
    (Source)

Final lines of the play. Original Greek. Alternate translations:

Wisdom is first of the gifts of good fortune:
'Tis a duty, to be sure, the rites of the Gods
Duly to honor: but words without measure, the
Fruit of vain-glory, in woes without number their
Recompense finding,
Have lesson'd the agéd in wisdom.
[tr. Donaldson (1848)]

Of happiness the chiefest part
Is a wise heart:
And to defraud the gods in aught
With peril's fraught.
Swelling words of high-flown might
Mightily the gods do smite.
Chastisement for errors past
Wisdom brings to age at last.
[tr. Storr (1859)]

Wise conduct hath command of happiness
Before all else, and piety to Heaven
Must be preserved. High boastings of the proud
Bring sorrow to the height to punish pride: --
A lesson men shall learn when they are old.
[tr. Campbell (1873)]

Wisdom is provided as the chief part of happiness, and our dealings with the gods must be in no way unholy. The great words of arrogant men have to make repayment with great blows, and in old age teach wisdom.
[tr. Jebb (1891)]

Wisdom alone is man's true happiness.
We are not to dispute the will of heaven;
For ever are the boastings of the proud
By the just gods repaid, and man at last
Is taught to fear their anger and be wise.
[tr. Werner (1892)]

Wisdom is the supreme part of happiness; and reverence towards the gods must be inviolate. Great words of prideful men are ever punished with great blows, and, in old age, teach the chastened to be wise.
[tr. Jebb (1917)]

There is no happiness where there is no wisdom;
No wisdom but in submission to the gods.
Big words are always punished
And proud men in old age learn to be wise.
[tr. Fitts/Fitzgerald (1939), l. 1039ff]

Of happiness the crown
And chiefest part
Is wisdom, and to hold
The gods in awe.
This is the law
That, seeing the stricken heart
Of pride brought down,
We learn when we are old.
[tr. Watling (1947), Exodos, l. 1027ff]

Our happiness depends
on wisdom all the way.
The gods must have their due.
Great words by men of pride
bring greater blows upon them.
So wisdom comes to the old.
[tr. Wyckoff (1954)]

Of happiness, far the greatest part is wisdom,
and reverence towards the gods.
Proud words of arrogant man, in the end,
Meet punishment, great as his pride was great,
Till at last he is schooled in wisdom.
[tr. Kitto (1962)]

Wisdom is supreme for a blessed life,
And reference for the gods
Must never cease. Great words, sprung from arrogance.
Are punished by great blows.
So it is one learns, in old age, to be wise.
[tr. Woodruff (2001)]

By far is having sense the first part
of happiness. One must not act impiously toward
what pertains to gods. Big words
of boasting men,
paid for by big blows,
teach having sense in old age.
[tr. Tyrell/Bennett (2002)]

The most important thing in man’s happiness is good judgement and he must not treat with disdain the works of the gods.
The arrogant pay for their big proud words with great downfalls and it’s only then, in their old age that they gain wisdom!
[tr. Theodoridis (2004)]

The most important part of true success
is wisdom -- not to act impiously
towards the gods, for boasts of arrogant men
bring on great blows of punishment --
so in old age men can discover wisdom.
[tr. Johnston (2005)]

Knowledge truly is by far the most important part of happiness, but one must neglect nothing that the gods demand. Great words of the over-proud balanced by great falls taught us knowledge in our old age.
[tr. Thomas (2005)]
Added on 11-Mar-21 | Last updated 11-Mar-21
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In artful boasting, one states all the information necessary to impress people, but keeps the facts decently clothed in the language of humility.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior: Freshly Updated (2005)
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Added on 6-Jul-20 | Last updated 6-Jul-20
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Even a stopped clock is right twice every day. After some years, it can boast of a long series of successes.

[Die still stehende Uhr, die täglich zwei Mal die richtige Zeit angezeigt hat, blickt nach Jahren auf eine lange Reihe von Erfolgen zurück.]

Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach (1830-1916) Austrian writer
Aphorisms, #67 (1880)
    (Source)
Added on 15-Jun-20 | Last updated 15-Jun-20
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The less you speak of your greatness, the more I will think of it.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Remark to Sir Edward Coke
    (Source)

Quoted in Joseph Sortain, The Life of Francis, Lord Bacon (1851).
Added on 8-Jun-20 | Last updated 8-Jun-20
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Bragging is not merely designed to impress. Bragging is designed to produce envy and assert superiority. It is, therefore, an act of hostility. Bragging is also a transparent ploy. It reveals your lack of self-confidence. “I am not enough,” you feel. So you resort to showering me with your “achievements,” in order to mask your perceived deficiencies.

Aaron Hass (contemp.) American clinical psychiatrist, academic, author
Doing the Right Thing: Cultivating Your Moral Intelligence, Sec. 1, ch. 7 “Self-Control” (1998)
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Added on 26-May-20 | Last updated 26-May-20
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Mules are always boasting that their ancestors are horses.

(Other Authors and Sources)
German Proverb
Added on 13-Nov-18 | Last updated 13-Nov-18
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The man who has nothing to boast of but his illustrious ancestry, is somewhat like a potatoe, the only good thing is under ground.

Thomas Overbury (1581-1613) English poet
Characters (1612)
    (Source)

Referenced in John Ireland, Letters and Poems by the Late Mr. John Henderson (1786). Variant: "The man who has not anything to boast of but his illustrious ancestors, is like a potatoe, the only good belonging to him is under ground." -- The Lady's Monthly Museum (June 1807).
Added on 6-Nov-18 | Last updated 24-Feb-21
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Whoo-oop! I’m the old original iron-jawed, brass-mounted, copper-bellied corpse-maker from the wilds of Arkansaw. — Look at me! I’m the man they call Sudden Death & General Desolation! Sired by a hurricane, dam’d by an earthquake, half-brother to the cholera, nearly related to the small-pox on the mother’s side! Look at me! I take nineteen alligators and a bar’l of whiskey for breakfast when I’m in robust health, and a bushel of rattlesnakes and a dead body when I’m ailing! I split the everlasting rocks with my glance, and I squench the thunder when I speak! Whoo-oop! Stand back and give me room according to my strength! Blood’s my natural drink, and the wails of the dying is music to my ear! Cast your eye on me, gentlemen! — and lay low and hold your breath, for I’m bout to turn myself loose!

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Life on the Mississippi, ch. 3 (1883)
Added on 16-Mar-16 | Last updated 16-Mar-16
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To have a thing is little, if you’re not allowed to show it;
And to know a thing is nothing, unless others know you know it.

Charles Neaves (1800-1876) Scottish judge, theologian, critic, poet
(Attributed)

Quoted in Booth Epigrams, Ancient and Modern (1865).
Added on 10-Feb-16 | Last updated 10-Feb-16
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This sad little lizard told me that he was a Brontosaurus on his mother’s side. I did not laugh; people who boast of ancestry often have little else to sustain them. Humoring them costs nothing and adds to happiness in a world in which happiness is in short supply.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Time Enough for Love (1973)
Added on 16-Dec-15 | Last updated 16-Dec-15
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I have always been fond of the West African proverb “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.”

Roosevelt - big stick - wist_info quote

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) US President (1901-1909)
Letter to Henry L. Sprague (26 Jan 1900)

Full text. This is the first known use by Roosevelt of his future catch phrase.  It attained more fame when he used it in a speech at the Minnesota State Fair (2 Sep 1901) (there are transcript variants):

  • "There is a homely adage which runs 'Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.' If the American nation will speak softly and yet build and keep at a pitch of highest training a thoroughly efficient Navy, the Monroe Doctrine will go far."
  • "Right here let me make as vigorous a plea as I know how in favor of saying nothing that we do not mean, and of acting without hesitation up to whatever we say. A good many of you are probably acquainted with the old proverb, 'Speak softly and carry a big stick — you will go far.' If a man continually blusters, if he lacks civility, a big stick will not save him from trouble, and neither will speaking softly avail, if back of the softness there does not lie strength, power. In private life there are few beings more obnoxious than the man who is always loudly boasting, and if the boaster is not prepared to back up his words, his position becomes absolutely contemptible. So it is with the nation. It is both foolish and undignified to indulge in undue self-glorification, and, above all, in loose-tongued denunciation of other peoples. Whenever on any point we come in contact with a foreign power, I hope that we shall always strive to speak courteously and respectfully of that foreign power."
Added on 2-Nov-11 | Last updated 12-Jan-16
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A strong nation, like a strong person, can afford to be gentle, firm, thoughtful, and restrained. It can afford to extend a helping hand to others. It’s a weak nation, like a weak person, that must behave with bluster and boasting and rashness and other signs of insecurity.

Jimmy Carter (b. 1924) American politician, US President (1977-1981), Nobel laureate [James Earl Carter, Jr.]
“Warm Hearts and Cool Heads,” speech, Liberal Party dinner, New York City (14 Oct 1976)
    (Source)

The title of the speech was from a phrase coined by Adlai Stevenson.
Added on 11-Oct-07 | Last updated 5-Jan-21
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