Figure Name epigram
Source Hart (1874) 163-164; Bain (1867) 51 ("epigram"); De Mille (1882); Hill (1883); Waddy (1889); Raub (1888) 216
Earliest Source
Type Chroma
Linguistic Domain Semantic

1. Epigram meant originally an inscription on a monument. As such inscriptions are usually short, containing as much as possible in a few words, Epigram came next to mean any brief saying, prose or poetical, remarkable for brevity and point, and the word is even yet used largely in this sense. The term Epigram is sometimes used to express the mode of giving brevity and point to a though. Epigram consists mainly in a play upon words, and so leads naturally to Pun, which turns entirely upon using words in a double meaning. (Hart)

2. "In the Epigram the mind is roused by a conflict or contradiction between the form of the language and the meaning really conveyed. The language contradicts itself, but the meaning is apparent." (Bain)

Another style associated with vivacity is that which is called epigrammatic.
By this is mean a style which resembles that of an epigram. And epigram is a short poem or sentence, applied to some person or thing, and ending in an ingenious point or witty sting, as in the following examples:
"Whilst Butler, needy wretch, was yet alive,
No generous patron would a dinner give;-
See him when starved to death, and turned to dust,
Presented with a monumental bust.
The poet's fate is here in emblem shown,
He asked for bread, and he received a stone."
"Seven Grecian cities strove for Homer dead,
Through which the living Homer begged his bread." (De Mille)

3. 439. THE EPIGRAM.
The word epigram has the same literal meaning as inscription. Originating among the Greeks, it was at first devoted to that purpose, but afterwards grew to have a more extended application. At the present day it is most frequently associated with it and satire, though it may also have a serious and elevated, or more religious character. (De Mille)

4. 1. Epigram.
The empigram, like the antithesis, is based on an obvious contrariety. Primarily the word meant an inscription on a monument. It is used also to signify any terse or pointed expression. It is here employed in a special sense, to designate those forms of expression in which there is a contradiction between the 'real' and the 'apparent' meaning; as, "'Verbosity' is cured by a wide 'vocabulary';" "'Conspicuous' for 'absence';" "Some are too 'foolish' to commit 'follies'." (Hill)

5. Epigram at first mean an inscription on a monument. Such inscriptions are usually short, containing as much as possible in a few words; hence, Epigram came to signify any pointed expression. As a figure of speech, it now means a statement in which there is an apparent contradiction between the form of the expression and the meaning really intended. (Waddy)

6. "Epigram originally meant an inscription on a tombstone. Such inscriptions usually being short, but expressing much, the term 'epigram' was afterward applied to any brief but expressive saying. The term is still much used in this sense, but rhetorically it is the name given to an expression in which there seems to be a contradiction between the form of expression and the actual meaning." (Raub)


1. "Beauty, when unadorned, adorned the most." (Hart)

1. "When you have nothing to say, say it."(Hart)

1. "He is a man of principle, in proportion to his interest."(Hart)

1. "Conspicuous or its absence."(Hart)

1. "We could not see the woods for the trees."(Hart)

1. "Verbosity is cured by a wide vocabulary."(Hart)

1. "So many things are striking that nothing strikes."(Hart)

1. "The easiest way of doing nothing is to do it."(Hart)

1. "Language is the art of concealing thought."(Hart)

1. "Summer has set in with its usual severity."(Hart)

2. "'The child is father to the man'…. 'Beauty, when unadorned, 's adorned the most,'…." (Bain)

3. The modern epigram is at once defined and illustrated in the following likes:
"Omne epigramma sit instar apis, sit aculeus illi,
Sint sua mella, sit et corporis exigui."
"An epigram is, like a bee,
A lively little thing;
Its body small, its honey sweet,
And in its tail a sting." (De Mille)

3. Many ancient epigrams are apopthegams:
"Please your own taste. In passion or from pique,
Some good of you, and some will evil speak." -THEOGNIS.

5. Thus, "Prosperity gains friends, but adversity tires them" is an antithesis; "Some are too foolish to commit follies" is an epigram-a contradiction between the sense and the form of the words. (Waddy)

6. "The child is father to the man. The favourite has no friend. When you have nothing to say, say it." (Raub)

Kind Of Opposition
Part Of
Related Figures pun, metaphor, allusion, antithesis, adage
Notes added: linguistic domain (semantic); kind of (opposition) --MC
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Mark Carter
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes
Reviewed No