Definition of epigram in US English:



  • 1A pithy saying or remark expressing an idea in a clever and amusing way.

    • ‘The only author the two seem to share in common is Oscar Wilde, hurling his various art-for-art's-sake epigrams at each other like barbs.’
    • ‘She lets one pithy epigram after the next fall flat, sadly clouding the brilliance of this real gem of a play.’
    • ‘His brilliant epigrams and shrewd social observations brought him theatrical success in the early 1890s with The Importance Of Being Earnest, Lady Windermere's Fan, A Woman Of No Importance and An Ideal Husband.’
    • ‘The shrewdness and sharpness of his proverbs and his forceful epigrams serve, in an exceptional degree, to make ethical ideas a popular possession.’
    • ‘For him, the centrepieces of conversation were aphorisms, epigrams and paradoxes which seemed to trip effortlessly from his honeyed tongue.’
    • ‘Considering how much I love his writing and, particularly, all his wonderful quotes and epigrams, I suppose I'd always imagined for myself how he might have sounded.’
    • ‘Combined with his epigrams, the carefully selected images become poor monuments, an aid to critical remembering.’
    • ‘Some of these examples are maxims, precepts, quips, proverbs and epigrams.’
    • ‘He was a master of the scintillating surface, the witty musical epigram, the surprising twist.’
    • ‘It gently satirized wartime bureaucracy, in a dazzling interchange of epigrams and catch-phrases, many of which passed into the common currency of speech.’
    • ‘It's tough to choose a single epitaph for a man who invoked so many epigrams and proverbs.’
    • ‘It is a book of hard-won wisdom and stark pleasure in the form of 500 lyrical aphorisms and epigrams.’
    • ‘He worked in government service, but was expelled from St Petersburg in 1820 for writing revolutionary epigrams.’
    • ‘Humanism was gradually replaced by a new international literary culture - ‘classicism’ - that recirculated and recycled an encyclopedic repertory of classical texts, mythologies, epigrams, and commonplaces.’
    • ‘This was one of the reasons that people spent more time making up pithy aphorisms and witty epigrams.’
    • ‘What people remember about his conversation is not what he said - he is no wit and no epigrams have attached themselves to his name - but the experience of having been drawn into the salon of his mind.’
    • ‘So, after weeks of intense preparation, I have come up with several epigrams so devastatingly clever in their sarcasm that my adversaries will be forced to admit defeat and submit to my will immediately.’
    • ‘Many blogs feature in their heading a maxim, aphorism, saying, adage, axiom, saw, proverb, epigram or precept.’
    • ‘Sophists are seen to entangle, entrap, and confuse their opponents, by means of strange or flowery metaphors, by unusual figures of speech, by epigrams and paradoxes, and in general by being clever and smart.’
    • ‘And let's be honest here, he was an extremely limited writer and his persecution has probably secured for him a place in history which would have been unachievable from his exhausting epigrams alone.’
    quip, witticism, gem, play on words, jest, pun, sally, nice turn of phrase
    proverb, saying, maxim, adage, axiom, aphorism, saw, gnome, dictum, precept, epigraph, motto, catchphrase
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A short poem, especially a satirical one, having a witty or ingenious ending.
      • ‘Today an epigram is generally defined as any short poem with a witty ending.’
      • ‘The technique of the epigram, which he defined as ‘a short poem, complete in itself, either comic or. serious,’ is to get the ‘most meaning you can into the smallest amount of space.’’
      • ‘He wrote book after book of poems of various lengths, one collection consisting of poems so brief that some are epigrams or puns.’
      • ‘Ballades and epigrams seem to have been frequent immigrants here.’
      • ‘He was one of the most versatile of Roman poets, who wrote love poems, elegies, and satirical epigrams with equal success.’
      • ‘It should be clear from these quotes that Davis is an effortless formalist, and he excels at the epigram, aubade, and sonnet, even successfully bringing off a sixteen-line ‘monorhyme.’’
      • ‘He also takes over a number of themes from Hellenistic poetry, especially from Greek epigram.’
      • ‘The forms of satirical discourse and epigram are introduced to convey his opinions more directly.’
      • ‘From the 70s and 80s A.D., we have some poems and epigrams by Martial.’
      • ‘The multitude of satirical verses, epigrams, slogans and cartoons displayed upon the statue's base earlier this year demonstrate that it is this subversive, anti-establishment tone which most characterises the Pasquino of today.’
      • ‘My first attempt, a chapbook of satiric epigrams, led me to examine the social facts.’
      • ‘On the formal level, its massive length (at 196 lines, it is over four times as long as the second-largest poem in the collection) and mock-heroic narrative render questionable its presence within a volume of epigrams.’
      • ‘The Greek Anthology, a collection of erotic and witty epigrams compiled from classical to Byzantine times, pales beside it.’
      • ‘It contains some lists of epigrams and poems from the ancient library and it was found with a mummy, like a mask on the mummy.’
      • ‘The resulting ambiguities have arguably frustrated readers for whom the contrasts and juxtapositions of the preceding epigrams offer a reassuring set of interpretive coordinates.’
      • ‘It contains hundreds of entries in the Haiku form currently enjoying a renaissance in hip literature circles as well as epigrams, concrete poems and other works similarly concise in their nature.’
      • ‘Another structural principle groups the elegies and epigrams together.’
      • ‘The papyrus bears 112 short poems called epigrams.’
      • ‘He cites as evidence the earliest use of the term in a literary context, from one of Martial's epigrams (here in the translation by Ben Jonson).’
      • ‘Catullus, the great lyric poet of Caesar's Rome, is known to many as the author of the ‘Lesbia’ poems, drum-tight epigrams in which he beats his explorations of love, longing, betrayal, and loss.’


Late Middle English: from French épigramme, or Latin epigramma, from Greek, from epi ‘upon, in addition’ + gramma (see -gram).