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[ Also see Argument Cleverness Conversation Dullness Eloquence Epigrams Humor Irony Jesting Jokes Language Levity Merriment Pun Repartee Ridicule Sarcasm Satire Smiles Speech Wisdom Witticisms ]

True wit is like the brilliant stone,
  Dug from the Indian mine,
    Which boasts two different pow'rs in one,
      To cut as well as shine.
      - Unattributed Author, Notes and Queries

It is much easier to decide what is not humorous than what is, and very difficult to define it otherwise than Cowley has done, by negatives.
      - Joseph Addison

Wit is the fetching of congruity out of incongruity.
      - Joseph Addison

Wit is educated insolence.
      - Aristotle

Sharp wits, like sharp knives, do often cut their owner's fingers.
      - Arrowsmith

It consisteth in one knows not what, and springeth up one can hardly tell how. Its ways are unaccountable and inexplicable, being answerable to the numberless rovings of fancy and windings of language.
      - Isaac Barrow

An ounce of wit is worth a pound of sorrow.
      - Richard Baxter, Of Self-Denial

What silly people wits are!
  [Lat., Que les gens d'esprit sont betes.]
      - Pierre Auguste Caron de Beaumarchais,
        Barbier de Seville (I, 1)

He who has provoked the lash of wit, cannot complain that he smarts from it.
      - James Boswell

Next to being witty yourself, the best thing is being able to quote another's wit.
      - Christian Nestell Bovee

The most brilliant flashes of wit come from a clouded mind, as lightning leaps only from an obscure firmament.
      - Christian Nestell Bovee

Wit must be without effort. Wit is play, not work; a nimbleness of the fancy, not a laborious effort of the will; a license, a holiday, a carnival of thought and feeling, not a trifling with speech, a constraint upon language, a duress upon words.
      - Christian Nestell Bovee

I have seen many so prone to quip and gird, as they would rather lose their friend than their jest. And if perchance their boiling brain yield a quaint scoff, they will travail to be delivered of it, as a woman with child. These nimble fancies are but the froth of wit.
      - William Henry Burleigh

Wit without an employment is a disease.
      - Robert Burton

Wit without employment is a disease.
      - Robert Burton

Aristotle said , , , melancholy men of all others are most witty.
      - Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy
         (pt. I, sec. III, memb. 1, subsect. 3)

Too much or too little wit
  Do only render th' owner fit
    For nothing, but to be undone
      Much easier than if they'd none.
      - Samuel Butler (1)

We grant, although he had much wit,
  H' was very shy of using it,
    As being loth to wear it out,
      And therefore bore it not about;
        Unless on holy days or so,
          As men their best apparel do.
      - Samuel Butler (1), Hudibras
         (pt. I, canto I, l. 45)

Great wits and valours, like great states,
  Do sometimes sink with their own weights.
      - Samuel Butler (1), Hudibras
         (pt. II, canto I, l. 269)

His sparkling sallies bubbled up as from a[e]reated natural fountains.
      - Thomas Carlyle

Do sometimes sink with their own weights.
  [Lat., Votre espril en donne aux autres.]
      - Catherine, the Great, Letter to Voltaire

Self-wit is so ardent and active that it will break a sword to pieces to make a stool to sit on.
      - Richard Cecil

Wit and humor belong to genius alone.
      - Cervantes (Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra)

Don't put too fine a point to your wit for fear it should get blunted.
      - Cervantes (Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra),
        The Little Gypsy

It is inconceivable how much wit it requires to avoid being ridiculous.
      - Sebastien-Roch-Nicolas de Chamfort

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