Quotations about   envy

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You would think we would envy only what we love, for being loveable. But no, we envy those the world loves, because we care less for being loveable than being loved.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
“Vectors: 56 Aphorisms and Ten-second Essays,” Michigan Quarterly Review, # 37 (Spring 1999)
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Added on 19-Oct-21 | Last updated 19-Oct-21
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CONGRATULATION, n. The civility of envy.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) American writer and journalist
The Cynic’s Word Book (1906)
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Added on 4-Oct-21 | Last updated 4-Oct-21
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Wise is he who instead of grieving over what he lacks delights in what he has.

[Εὐγνώμων ὁ μὴ λυπεόμενος ἐφ’ οἷσιν οὐκ ἔχει, ἀλλὰ χαίρων ἐφ’ οἷσιν ἔχει.]

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Frag. 231 (Diels) [tr. @sententiq (2016)]
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Original Greek. Diels citation "231 (61 N.)"; collected in Joannes Stobaeus (Stobaios) Anthologium III, 17, 25. Bakewell lists this under "The Golden Sayings of Democritus." Freeman notes this as one of the Gnômae, from a collection called "Maxims of Democratês," but because Stobaeus quotes many of these as "Maxims of Democritus," they are generally attributed to the latter. Alternate translations:

  • "A sensible man takes pleasure in what he has instead of pining for what he has not." [tr. Bakewell (1907)]
  • "The right-minded man is he who is not grieved by what he has not, but enjoys what he has." [tr. Freeman (1948)]
  • "A man of sound judgement is not grieved by what he does not possess but rejoices in what he does possess." [tr. Barnes (1987)]
  • "A sensible man does not grieve for what he has not, but enjoys what he has." [Source]
Added on 11-May-21 | Last updated 11-May-21
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Envy is the gasoline on which American capitalism runs.

John Lahr (b. 1941) British-based American theater critic, author
“Lives in Limbo,” The New Yorker (26 Mar 2012)
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Added on 19-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-21
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Low people, in good circumstances, fine clothes, and equipage, will insolently show contempt for all those who cannot afford as fine clothes, as good an equipage, and who have not (as they term it) as much money in their pockets: on the other hand, they are gnawed with envy, and cannot help discovering it, of those who surpass them in any of these articles; which are far from being sure criterions of merit.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son (29 Oct 1748)
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Added on 11-Mar-21 | Last updated 11-Mar-21
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Comparison is the thief of joy.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) US President (1901-1909)
(Attributed)
Added on 9-Jan-20 | Last updated 9-Jan-20
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This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d, —
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me,
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England, now a-bed,
Shall think themselves accurs’d, they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap, whiles any speaks,
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Henry V, Act 4, sc. 3 [Henry] (1599)
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Added on 14-May-18 | Last updated 14-May-18
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No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.

H.G. Wells (1866-1946) British writer [Herbert George Wells]
The War of the Worlds, Book 1, ch. 1 (1898)
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Added on 22-Aug-17 | Last updated 22-Aug-17
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The urge to distribute wealth equally, and still more the belief that it can be brought about by political action, is the most dangerous of all popular emotions. It is the legitimation of envy, of all the deadly sins the one which a stable society based on consensus should fear the most. The monster state is a source of many evils; but it is, above all, an engine of envy.

Paul Johnson (b. 1928) English journalist, historian, speechwriter, author
The Recovery of Freedom (1980)
Added on 11-Apr-17 | Last updated 11-Apr-17
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The civilized are those who get more out of life than the uncivilized, and for this the uncivilized have not forgiven them.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
The Unquiet Grave (1944)
Added on 20-Feb-17 | Last updated 20-Feb-17
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The envious nature of men, so prompt to blame and so slow to praise, makes the discovery and introduction of any new principles and systems as dangerous as almost the exploration of unknown seas and continents.

macchiavelli-new-systems-and-discoveries-wist_info-quote

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) Italian politician, philosopher, political scientist
The Discourses on Livy, Book 1, Introduction (1517) [tr. Detmold (1882)]
Added on 11-Nov-16 | Last updated 27-Jan-20
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Moral indignation is in most cases 2 percent moral, 48 percent indignation, and 50 percent envy.

De Sica - 50 percent envy - wist_info quote

Vittorio De Sica (1901-1974) Italian neorealist director and actor
In The Observer (1961)

See also H. G. Wells.
Added on 31-Mar-16 | Last updated 31-Mar-16
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Calamities are of two kinds: misfortune to ourselves, and good fortune to others.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) American writer and journalist
The Cynic’s Word Book (1906)
Added on 3-Mar-16 | Last updated 3-Mar-16
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He that succeeds in the world loves it. He that fails in it hates it.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1831)
Added on 2-Mar-16 | Last updated 2-Mar-16
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Every man hath in his own life sins enough, in his own mind trouble enough, in his own fortune evils enough, and in performance of his offices failings more than enough, to entertain his own inquiry; so that curiosity after the affairs of others cannot be without envy, and an evil mind. What is it to me, if my neighbour’s grandfather were a Syrian, or his grandmother illegitimate; or that another is indebted five thousand pounds, or whether his wife be expensive?

Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667) English cleric and author
The Rules and Exercises of Holy Living (1650)
Added on 4-Feb-16 | Last updated 4-Feb-16
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Envy is the tax which all distinction must pay.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1824)
Added on 20-Jan-16 | Last updated 20-Jan-16
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Envy, like flame, blackens that which is above it, and which it cannot reach.

Jean-Antoine Petit-Senn (1792-1870) French-Swiss poet
(Attributed)
Added on 20-Aug-15 | Last updated 20-Aug-15
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ORLANDO: O, how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man’s eyes!

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
As You Like It, Act 5, sc. 2 (1599)
Added on 9-Jun-15 | Last updated 9-Jun-15
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MORELLA: Greatness is never appreciated in youth, called pride in middle age, dismissed in old age, and reconsidered in death. Because we cannot tolerate greatness in our midst we do all we can to destroy it.

J. Michael (Joe) Straczynski (b. 1954) American screenwriter, producer, author [a/k/a "JMS"]
Babylon 5, 3×09 “Point of No Return” (26 Feb 1996)
Added on 25-Jul-14 | Last updated 25-Jul-14
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With the greater part of rich people, the chief enjoyment of riches consists in the parade of riches, which in their eye is never so complete as when they appear to possess those decisive marks of opulence which nobody can possess but themselves.

Adam Smith (1723-1790) Scottish economist
The Wealth of Nations, 1.11.2 (1776)
Added on 30-Jan-14 | Last updated 30-Jan-14
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Everything is un-American that tends either to government by a plutocracy, or government by a mob. To divide along the lines of section or caste or creed is un-American. All privilege based on wealth, and all enmity to honest men merely because they are wealthy, are un-American — both of them equally so. Americanism means the virtues of courage, honor, justice, truth, sincerity, and hardihood — the virtues that made America. The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) US President (1901-1909)
Letter to S. Stanwood Menken (10 Jan 1917)
Added on 29-Jan-14 | Last updated 15-Jun-16
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The Rich knows not who is his friend.

George Herbert (1593-1633) Welsh priest, orator, poet.
Outlandish Proverbs, #863 (1640)
Added on 19-Dec-13 | Last updated 19-Dec-13
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Few of us can stand prosperity. Another man’s, I mean.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Following the Equator, ch. 40, epigraph (1897)
Added on 18-Feb-13 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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A narcissist is someone better looking than you are.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
“Vidal: ‘I’m at the Top of a Very Tiny Heap,'” by Michiko Kakutani, New York Times (12 Mar 1981)
Added on 16-Oct-12 | Last updated 28-Jan-20
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Envy is the central fact of American life.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
“Gore Vidal,” interview by Gerald Clarke (1974), The Paris Review Interviews: Writers at Work, 5th series (1981)
Added on 25-Sep-12 | Last updated 28-Jan-20
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Wealth is not without its advantages, and the case to the contrary, although it has often been made, has never proved widely persuasive.

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) Canadian-American economist, diplomat, author
The Affluent Society, ch. 1, sec. 1 (1958)
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Added on 20-Apr-12 | Last updated 14-Jan-20
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Probably the greatest harm done by vast wealth is the harm that we of moderate means do ourselves when we let the vices of envy and hatred enter deep into our own natures. But there is another harm; and it is evident that we should try to do away with that. The great corporations which we have grown to speak of rather loosely as trusts are the creatures of the State, and the State not only has the right to control them, but it is duty bound to control them wherever the need of such control is shown.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) US President (1901-1909)
Speech, Providence, Rhode Island (23 Aug 1902)
Added on 8-Nov-11 | Last updated 7-Jul-14
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Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo.

H.G. Wells (1866-1946) British writer [Herbert George Wells]
The Wife of Sir Isaac Harman, 9.2 (1914)
Added on 21-Sep-11 | Last updated 6-Jan-20
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Comparison, more than Reality, makes Men happy or wretched.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, #1133 (1732)
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Added on 23-Jun-11 | Last updated 26-Jan-21
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Living well is the best revenge.

George Herbert (1593-1633) Welsh priest, orator, poet.
Jacula Prudentum, or Outlandish Proverbs, # 524 (1640)
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Perhaps a variant of John Lyly (1579): "The greatest harm that you can do unto the envious, is to do well."
Added on 1-Jul-10 | Last updated 31-Mar-21
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Pity cureth Envy.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, #3876 (1732)
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Added on 9-Feb-10 | Last updated 26-Jan-21
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Man will do many things to get himself loved; he will do all things to get himself envied.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Following the Equator, ch. 21, epigraph (1897)
Added on 19-Jan-10 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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Our desires always increase with our possessions; the knowledge that something remains yet unenjoyed, impairs our enjoyment of the good before us.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Adventurer, # 67 (26 Jun 1753)
Added on 15-Sep-09 | Last updated 2-May-14
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In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy.

Ivan Illich (1926-2002) Austrian philosopher, social critic, cleric
Tools for Conviviality, ch. 3 (1973)
Added on 28-Apr-09 | Last updated 6-Apr-16
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Anger and jealousy can no more bear to lose sight of their objects than love.

George Eliot (1819-1880) English novelist [pseud. of Mary Ann Evans]
The Mill on the Floss (1860)
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Added on 14-Aug-07 | Last updated 3-May-19
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The conviction of the rich that the poor are happier is no more foolish than the conviction of the poor that the rich are.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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The miser is as much in want of that which he has, as of that which he has not.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 15-Feb-17
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If you would escape moral and physical assassination, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing — court obscurity, for only in oblivion does safety lie.

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American writer, businessman, philosopher
Little Journeys to the Homes of American Statemen, “William H. Seward” (1916)
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Variants show up elsewhere in Hubbard's writings and and his quote epigrams.
  • To escape criticism -- do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.
  • To avoid unkind criticism: do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.
  • There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing and be nothing.
Often misattributed to Aristotle.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 10-Oct-19
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