The Devil’s Dictionary is a satirical dictionary written by American Civil War soldier, journalist, and writer Ambrose Bierce consisting of common words followed by humorous and satirical definitions. The lexicon was written over three decades as a series of installments for magazines and newspapers. Bierce’s witty definitions were imitated and plagiarized for years before he gathered them into books, first as The Cynic’s Word Book in 1906 and then in a more complete version as The Devil’s Dictionary in 1911.
Initial reception of the book versions was mixed. In the decades following, however, the stature of The Devil’s Dictionary grew. It has been widely quoted, frequently translated, and often imitated, earning a global reputation. In the 1970s, The Devil’s Dictionary was named as one of “The 100 Greatest Masterpieces of American Literature” by the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration. It has been called “howlingly funny”, and Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Zweig wrote that The Devil’s Dictionary is “probably the most brilliant work of satire written in America. And maybe one of the greatest in all of world literature.”