90+ Oliver Wendell Holmes Quotes on life and more

Oliver Wendell Holmes (August 29, 1809 – October 7, 1894) was an American physician, poet, and polymath based in Boston. A member of the Fireside Poets, he was acclaimed by his peers as one of the best writers of the day. His most famous prose works are the “Breakfast-Table” series, which began with The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table (1858). He was also an important medical reformer. In addition to his work as an author and poet, Holmes also served as a physician, professor, lecturer and inventor and, although he never practiced it, he received formal training in law. Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Holmes was educated at Phillips Academy and Harvard College. After graduating from Harvard in 1829, he briefly studied law before turning to the medical profession. He began writing poetry at an early age; one of his most famous works, “Old Ironsides”, was published in 1830 and was influential in the eventual preservation of the USS Constitution. Following training at the prestigious medical schools of Paris, Holmes was granted his Doctor of Medicine degree from Harvard Medical School in 1836. He taught at Dartmouth Medical School before returning to teach at Harvard and, for a time, served as dean there. During his long professorship, he became an advocate for various medical reforms and notably posited the controversial idea that doctors were capable of carrying puerperal fever from patient to patient. Holmes retired from Harvard in 1882 and continued writing poetry, novels and essays until his death in 1894. We bring you the compilation of the best Oliver Wendell Holmes Quotes, hope you like it.

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90+ Oliver Wendell Holmes Quotes on life and more

Certainty generally is illusion and repose is not the destiny of man. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Rough work, iconoclasm, but the only way to get at the truth. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

The morning cup of coffee has an exhilaration about it which the cheering influence of the afternoon or evening cup of tea cannot be expected to reproduce. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Law is the witness and external deposit of our moral life. Its history is the history of the moral development of the race. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

A sick man that gets talking about himself, a woman that gets talking about her baby, and an author that begins reading out of his own book, never know when to stop. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

A man may fulfil the object of his existence by asking a question he cannot answer, and attempting a task he cannot achieve. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

When I want to understand what is happening today or try to decide what will happen tomorrow, I look back. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Every year, if not every day, we have to wager our salvation upon some prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Don’t flatter yourself that friendship authorises you to say disagreeable things to your intimates. The nearer you come into relation with a person, the more necessary do tact and courtesy become. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

You commit a sin of omission if you do not utilise all the power that is within you. All men have claims on man, and to the man with special talents, this is a very special claim. It is required that a man take part in the actions and clashes of his time rather than the peril of being judged not to have lived at all. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

The secret of my success is that at an early age I discovered I was not God. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Man’s mind stretched to a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Faith implies the disbelief of a lesser fact in favour of a greater.-Oliver Wendell Holmes

Talking is like playing on the harp, there is as much in laying the hand on the strings to stop their vibrations as in twanging them to bring out their music. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

People who honestly mean to be true really contradict themselves much more rarely than those who try to be “consistent.” -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Life is painting a picture, not doing a sum. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

90+ Oliver Wendell Holmes Quotes on life and more

We must think things not words, or at least we must constantly translate our words into the facts for which they stand, if we are to keep to the real and the true. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

A man is a kind of inverted thermometer, the bulb uppermost, and the column of self-valuation is all the time going up and down.-Oliver Wendell Holmes

Every calling is great when greatly pursued. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

If you want to hit a bird on the wing you must have all your will in focus, you must not be thinking about yourself and, equally, you must not bethinking about your neighbour: you must be living in your eye on that bird. Every achievement is a bird on the wing. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Speak clearly, if you speak at all; Carve every word before you let it fall. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

When the style is fully formed, if it has a sweet under song, we call it beautiful, and the writer may do what he likes in words or syntax. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

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A day’s impact is better than a month of dead pull. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Faith, as an intellectual state, is self-reliance. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

A sense of wrongdoing is an enhancement of pleasure. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Logic is logic. That’s all I say. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Lawyers spend a great deal of time shovelling smoke. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

The world’s great men have not commonly been great scholars, nor its great scholars great men. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Nature is in earnest when she makes a woman. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

One unquestioned text we read, All doubt beyond, all fear above; Nor crackling pile nor cursing creed Can burn or blot it: God is Love. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Life is a romantic business, but you have to make the romance. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

90+ Oliver Wendell Holmes Quotes on life and more

Rouble creates a capacity to handle it. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Man has his will, but woman has her way. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Husband and wife come to look alike at last. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Apology is only egotism wrong side out. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

When you write in prose you say what you mean. When you write in rhyme you say what you must. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Men are idolaters, and want something to look at and kiss and hug, or throw themselves down before; they always did, they always will, and if you don’t make it of wood, you must make it of words. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Life is an end in itself, and the only question as to whether it is worth living is whether you have had enough of it. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Most persons have died before they expired – died to all earthly longings, so that the last breath is only, as it were, the locking of the door of the already deserted mansion. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

The longing for certainty … is in every human mind. But certainty is generally illusion. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Nature, when she invented, manufactured and patented her authors, contrived to make critics out of the chips that were left. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

I should like to see any kind of a man, distinguishable from a gorilla that some good and even pretty woman could not shape a husband out of. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

For me, at least, there came moments when faith wavered. But there is the great lesson and the great triumph: keep the fire burning until, by and by, out of the mass of sordid details there comes some result. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Life is a great bundle of little things. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Causing a panic… The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

90+ Oliver Wendell Holmes Quotes on life and more

So long as the body is affected through the mind, no audacious device, even of the most manifestly dishonest character, can fail of producing occasional good to those who yield to it an implicit or even a partial faith. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

When in doubt, do it. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

We expect more of ourselves than we have any right to. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Longevity is having a chronic disease and taking care of it. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

If I had a formula for bypassing trouble, I wouldn’t pass it around. Wouldn’t be doing anybody a favour. Trouble creates a capacity to handle it. I don’t say embrace trouble. That’s as bad as treating it as an enemy. But I do say, meet it as a friend, for you’ll see a lot of it and had better be on speaking terms with it. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

This is a court of law, young man, not a court of justice. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Apology is only egotism wrong side out. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Have you been inspired by these Oliver Wendell Holmes quotes. If you have been enjoying our Oliver Wendell Holmes quotes compilation then do check out our collection of quotes from Authors similar to our Oliver Wendell Holmes quotes collection.

I firmly believe that if the whole material medico as now used, could be sunk to the bottom of the sea, it would be all the better for mankind and all the worse for the fishes. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

The reward of a general is not a bigger tent – but command. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Grateful for the blessing lent of simple tastes and mind content! -Oliver Wendell Holmes

out and embarrasses us. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

After sixty years the stern sentence of the burial service seems to have a meaning that one did not notice in former years. There begins to be something personal about it. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Why can’t somebody give us a list of things that everybody thinks and nobody says, and another list of things that everybody says and nobody thinks. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

The life of the law has not been logic, it has been experience. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Love is the master key which opens the gates of happiness. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

90+ Oliver Wendell Holmes Quotes on life and more

The reward of the general is not a bigger tent, but command. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Systems die; instincts remain. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

A general flavour of mild decay, but nothing local, as one may say. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

If you think that I am going to bother myself again before I die about social improvement, or read any of those stinking upward and on-warders – you err – I mean to have some good out of being old. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

I am on the side of the unregenerate who affirm the worth of life as an end in itself, as against the saints who deny it. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Pick my left pocket of its silver dime, but spare the right-it holds my golden time! -Oliver Wendell Holmes

The life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Friendship is the pleasing game of interchanging praise. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Life is action and passion; therefore, it is required of a man that he should share the passion and action of the time, at peril of being judged not to have lived. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

A minister is coming down every generation nearer and nearer to the common level of the useful citizen – no oracle at all, but a man of more than average moral instincts, who if he knows anything, knows how little he knows. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

An older author is constantly rediscovering himself in the more or less fossilised productions of his earlier years. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

When I feel inclined to read poetry I take down my dictionary. The poetry of words is quite as beautiful as that of sentences. The author may arrange the gems effectively but their shape and lustre have been given by the attrition of ages. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

The riders in a race do not stop short when they reach the goal. There is a little finishing canter before coming to a standstill. There is time to hear the kind voice of friends and to say to one’s self: “The work is done.” -Oliver Wendell Holmes

90+ Oliver Wendell Holmes Quotes on life and more

Don’t be consistent, but be simply true. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

The AmenT of Nature is always a flower. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

The great thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Take your needle, my child, and work at your pattern; it will come out a rose by and by. Life is like that; one stitch at a time taken patiently, and the pattern will come out all right, like embroidery. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Every real thought on every real subject knocks the wind out of somebody or other. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Youth fades; love droops, the leaves of friendship fall; A mother’s secret hope outlives them all. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Imitation is a necessity of human nature. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Have you been inspired by these Oliver Wendell Holmes quotes. If you have been enjoying our Oliver Wendell Holmes quotes compilation then do check out our collection of quotes from Authors similar to our Oliver Wendell Holmes quotes collection.

I confess that altruistic and cynically selfish talk seem to me about equally unreal. With all humility, I think ‘whatsoever thy hand find to do, do it with thy might,’ infinitely more important than the vain attempt to love one’s neighbour as one’s self. If you want to hit a bird on the wing you must have all your will in focus, you must not be thinking about yourself, and equally, you must not be thinking about your neighbour; you must be living with your eye on that bird. Every achievement is a bird on the wing. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Certitude is not the test of certainty. We have been cock-sure of many things that were not so. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

A weak mind does not accumulate force enough to hurt itself; stupidity often saves a man from going mad. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

We expect more of ourselves than we have any right to. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

A man must get a thing before he can forget it. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

The great act of faith is when a man decides that he is not God. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

The young man knows the rules but the old man knows the exceptions. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

90+ Oliver Wendell Holmes Quotes on life and more

The world is always ready to receive talent with open arms. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

When I feel inclined to read poetry, I take down my dictionary. The poetry of words is quite as beautiful as the poetry of sentences. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Realise life as an end in itself. Functioning is all there is. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

I hate being placed on committees. They are always having meetings at which half are absent and the rest late. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Apology – a desperate habit, and one that is rarely cured. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Without wearing any mask we are conscious of, we have a special face for each friend. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Except in cases of necessity, which are rare, leave your friend to learn unpleasant things from his enemies; they are ready enough to tell him. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

The great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

The man who thinks his wife, his baby, his house, his horse, his dog, and himself severely unequalled, is almost sure to be a good- humoured person. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Every year, if not every day, we have to wager our salvation upon some prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye; the more light you pour upon it, the more it will contract. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

What a blessed thing it is that nature, when she invented, manufactured and patented her auditors, contrived to make critics out of the chips that were left! -Oliver Wendell Holmes


We hope this compilation of quotes took you out of your grim and helped you to reflect on yourself. There are times in our lives when pausing, getting to know who you are on a deeper level, and evaluating yourself and your progress can really open up all kinds of creative and inspirational pathways. Keep Hustling and Follow Quotes Inferno for more such quotes. Feel free to share your favorite with your friends or in the comments below.

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