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[ep-i-gram] /ˈɛp ɪˌgræm/
any witty, ingenious, or pointed saying tersely expressed.
epigrammatic expression:
Oscar Wilde had a genius for epigram.
a short, often satirical poem dealing concisely with a single subject and usually ending with a witty or ingenious turn of thought.
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English < Latin epigramma < Greek epígramma inscription, epigram. See epi-, -gram1
Can be confused
epigram, epigraph, epitaph, epithet.
1. witticism, quip, bon mot. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for epigrams
  • For all their sprightliness, these epigrams sag-melancholy testimony that the realist is second to none in his illusions.
  • On occasion, to entertain himself and others, he wrote witty epigrams about various speakers.
  • Two of his epigrams suggest that singing was a common company experience.
  • His short stories, sketches, anecdotes and epigrams are triumphs of sheer objectivity.
  • And so he wrote drama for society, philosophy for his equals, epigrams for everyone.
British Dictionary definitions for epigrams


a witty, often paradoxical remark, concisely expressed
a short, pungent, and often satirical poem, esp one having a witty and ingenious ending
Derived Forms
epigrammatic, adjective
epigrammatically, adverb
Word Origin
C15: from Latin epigramma, from Greek: inscription, from epigraphein to write upon, from graphein to write
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for epigrams



mid-15c., from Middle French épigramme, from Latin epigramma "an inscription," from Greek epigramma "an inscription, epitaph, epigram," from epigraphein "to write on, inscribe" (see epigraph). Related: Epigrammatist.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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epigrams in Culture

epigram definition

Any pithy, witty saying or short poem. An aphorism can serve as an epigram, if it is brief.

Note: Several authors are noted for their epigrams, including Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde. One of Wilde's epigrams is “I can resist everything except temptation.”
Note: Two other words are similar: an epigraph is usually an inscription, as on a statue; an epitaph can be such an inscription or it can be a brief literary note commemorating a dead person.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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