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A Wilde Journey: The Top 60 Best Oscar Wilde Quotes for Every Occasion

The Irish born writer Oscar Wilde is outrageously funny and has the sharpest wit of all Irish writers.

What always struck me as weird was how little Oscar Wilde is integrated into the canon of Irish literature. Maybe he was to transgressing for Irish society?

Maybe he wasn’t acting Irish enough?

Either way, he left us with some of the greatest quotes that fit almost all occasions.

Fancy a trip down the rabbit hole into the enchanting and inspirational world of Oscar Wilde?

This is a whirlwind tour of the 60 best Oscar Wilde quotes.

From love to life, from the “Importance of Being Earnest” to the tragic beauty of Dorian Gray, Wilde’s words will make you laugh, ponder, and everything in between.

Let’s dive headfirst into the wit and wisdom of Oscar Wilde, one of the most well known of all writers.

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Famous Quotes by Oscar Wilde: His Witty Wisdom

Oscar Wilde, was known for his wit and wisdom, which is common in Irish culture. He gave us some of the most famous quotes in literature.

His clever turns of phrase and wise comments are still remembered today:

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

This quote, which is credited to Wilde, tells us to be ourselves. It’s a timeless reminder of how important being real is.

“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”

Wilde’s wit is on full display in this quote from “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” The idea of forgiveness is presented with humor.

Oscar Wilde photographed by Napoleon Sarony in 1882. (Photo: Everett Collection via Shutterstock, text added via

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

This quote, from “Lady Windermere’s Fan,” is one of Wilde’s most famous.

One can say that it is a powerful reminder to keep having hope, even when things are hard.

“I can resist everything except temptation.”

Another quote, from “Lady Windermere’s Fan.” This is definitely a classic example of Wilde’s irreverent sense of humor. It’s a cheeky admission that people are weak.

“I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.”

In order to humorously convey his high standards, Oscar Wilde used irony in this quote. Below you find a similar quote, but with a different take.

“I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex.”

Oscar Wilde says in this quote that people with complex, thoughtful minds often find comfort and pleasure in life’s simplest pleasures.

This gives them a break from their inner world’s complexity.

“Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.”

From “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” this quote gives a new way to think about mistakes by saying that they are just a part of learning.

“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

From “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” this quote shows how Wilde felt about fame and reputation.

It’s a funny take on how people want to be noticed.

“Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike. You dislike me. I am quite aware of that. And I have always detested you.”

This quote from “An Ideal Husband” shows that Oscar Wilde thought morality was based on personal biases and emotions rather than an objective set of rules.

It also shows that we tend to judge people we don’t like more harshly, calling their actions immoral, while we may overlook the same actions in people we like.

“True friends stab you in the front.”

A truly classic Oscar Wilde quote, which is funny because it seems to contradict itself. True friends are honest and direct with you, even if that means telling you hard truths.

“The only thing that one really knows about human nature is that it changes. Change is the one quality we can predicate of it. The systems that fail are those that rely on the permanency of human nature, and not on its growth and development.”

This Oscar Wilde quote emphasizes that the essence of human nature is the ability to change and grow.

It suggests that any system or ideology that doesn’t take into account this ability to change and grow, thinking that human nature is static, is doomed to fail.

Oscar Wilde on Love

Oscar Wilde and Constance Lloyd sculptures in Merrion Square, Dublin.
Oscar Wilde and Constance Lloyd sculptures in Merrion Square, Dublin. (Photo:

Oscar Wilde’s words about love move gracefully between the romantic and the realistic, the idealistic and the cynical.

His quotes on love, taken from his plays, novels, and poems, show a deep understanding of human emotions and the complexities of romantic relationships.

“Men always want to be a woman’s first love. Women have a more subtle instinct: What they like is to be a man’s last romance.”

This quote from “A Woman of No Importance” shows how well Wilde understood how men and women interact in romantic relationships.

It’s a classic Wilde quote that is both funny and wise.

“Who, being loved, is poor?”

This line comes from “An Ideal Husband,” one of Wilde’s most popular plays.

It says that love in its purest form can make us feel rich beyond measure. The value of true affection can be very powerful.

“To love is to see a miracle invisible to others.”

Reading Goal (Prison) in Berkshire, where Wilde was incarcerated for a period of time. (Photo: BasPhoto via Depositphotos, text added via

This quote comes from “De Profundis,” a long letter Wilde wrote while he was in prison.

Love has the power to change people under cirtain circumstances.

It also shows how love can show people things that others don’t see, showing its almost magical effect.

“Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.”

This touching quote comes from Wilde’s essay “The Critic as Artist.”

Wilde paints a vivid picture of life without love, calling it a “sunless garden,” and shows how love gives our lives life and warmth.

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”

Another quote from “An Ideal Husband,” this one offers a humorous yet wise perspective on self-love.

In this case, Wilde says that true happiness starts with loving oneself, a message that rings true in today’s world.

“Never Love Anyone Who Treats You Like You’re Ordinary.”

Oscar Wilde says in this quote that you should only love someone who appreciates and loves you for what makes you unique.

You shouldn’t settle for someone who treats you like everyone else.

“How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being?”

Oscar Wilde uses humor in this quote to suggest that a man should treat a woman like she is extraordinary and special, not like just another person, in order to make her happy.

The Picture of Dorian Gray Quotes

The reclining sculpture of Oscar Wilde in Merrion Square in Dublin.
The reclining sculpture of Oscar Wilde in Merrion Square in Dublin. (Photo:

“The Picture of Dorian Gray,” Wilde’s only novel, is a treasure trove of deep thoughts, insightful observations, and sharp wit.

The novel’s exploration of beauty, morality, and the fleeting nature of youth is both profound and fascinating.

Here are some of the best quotes from this famous piece of writing:

“The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.”

This quote from Lord Henry, a character known for his hedonistic worldview, sums up the novel’s exploration of desire and temptation.

It’s a provocative statement that challenges conventional wisdom, which is a hallmark of Wilde’s writing.

“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”

This meta-commentary on literature is a quote from the preface of “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” where Wilde defends his work against critics who said it was immoral.

Wilde believed in art for art’s sake, apart from societal norms and moral judgment.

“Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

This powerful quote comes from Lord Henry Wotton.

It is a critique of the materialistic society of Oscar Wilde’s time, and it still rings true today.

“Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.”

This quote, also from Lord Henry, emphasizes the novel’s main theme, which is that art is a reflection of the artist.

Additionally, it adds a meta-narrative layer by suggesting that Dorian Gray’s portrait might say more about its creator, Basil Hallward, than about Dorian himself.

“Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.”

This is another quote from the novel’s preface.

Wilde demonstrates here how he felt about people who don’t appreciate beauty for its own sake.

It’s a biting comment on society’s hypocrisy and prudishness.

“To define is to limit.”

Again coming from the wise Lord Henry, this deep statement shows Wilde’s belief in the fluidity of identity and the limits of social labels.

It also sums up the novel’s exploration of freedom and individuality.

Sculpture of Oscar Wilde and Eduard Vilde in Tartu with quote
Estonian sculpture of writers Oscar Wilde and Eduard Vilde in Tartu, who shared a similar name and wrote around the same time. (Photo: dimmex via Depositphotos, text added via

The Importance of Being Earnest Quotes

Oscar Wilde’s most famous play, “The Importance of Being Earnest,” is a delightful satire of Victorian social norms.

Its witty dialogue and humorous inversion of social expectations make it a joy to read even today.

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”

One of the play’s main characters, Gwendolen Fairfax, is the source of this quote.

Her words perfectly capture Wilde’s sense of humor and his awareness of human vanity.

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

This gem, which was also said by Gwendolen, ties into the play’s theme of lies and mistaken identities.

It’s a clever reference to the complicated web of lies that makes up the plot.

“The very essence of romance is uncertainty.”

Algernon Moncrieff, who is known for his sarcastic wit, makes another wise comment in this quote.

It shows how unpredictable and exciting romance can be, which is a key theme in the play.

“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.”

This quote from the handsome Algernon is a humorous but pointed comment on gender roles and societal expectations.

It’s a classic Wildean observation, full of wit and wisdom.

“To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”

Lady Bracknell, the epitome of Victorian propriety, delivers this line with her trademark mix of absurdity and sternness.

It’s a hilarious, but sharp critique of social propriety and class prejudices.

“I never saw anybody take so long to dress, and with such little result.”

Algernon’s snide remark to his friend Jack is a great example of Wilde’s biting wit.

The quote is full of humor and shows how vain and shallow the characters are.

Oscar Wilde Quotes about Life

Old Georgian door in Dublin with quote.
Old Georgian door in Dublin. (Photo: spirope via Depositphotos, text added via

Oscar Wilde was a master of wit and satire, but he was also a philosopher in his own right.

His wise observations about life, which were often wrapped in irony and humor, continue to resonate with people all over the world.

So without further ado, here are the best Oscar Wilde Life quotes:

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”

One of Wilde’s most well-known quotes is this one from “The Soul of Man Under Socialism,” which captures his view that living life fully is preferable to just existing.

“Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.”

This witty observation from “The Picture of Dorian Gray” turns the common wisdom about experience and learning on its head.

It’s a great example of how Wilde could mix wisdom with wit.

“The old believe everything, the middle aged suspect everything, the young know everything.”

The optimism of youth, the doubt of middle age, and the credulity of old age are all discussed in this quote from “Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young”.

It offers a humorous yet insightful perspective on the various stages of life.

“There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.”

This quote from “Lady Windermere’s Fan” talks about the contradictions between wanting something and getting it.

It’s a deep reflection on the human condition that’s cleverly disguised as a joke.

“Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about.”

This quote from “Lady Windermere’s Fan” suggests that some matters of great importance can be so overwhelming or intimidating.

One of the best ways to deal with them might be with a bit of humor or indifference, so that they don’t become too heavy or paralyzing.

“An excellent man: he has no enemies, and none of his friends like him.”

This is what Oscar Wilde said about George Bernard Shaw who referred to him as ” the great white caterpillar”

“I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.”

This quote from “The Happy Prince and Other Stories” is a powerful reminder not to put too much stock in one’s intelligence and words.

View of Trinity College in Dublin.
View of Trinity College in Dublin. (Photo: David_Soanes via Depositphotos, text added via

“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”

Oscar Wilde’s quote suggests that people often hide their true selves behind their everyday personas.

They are more likely to say what they really think and feel when they are anonymous or wearing a disguise (“a mask”).

“When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life. Now that I am old, I know that it is.”

The enduring and unavoidable importance of money in life is wittily reflected in this Oscar Wilde quote.

“Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live. It is asking other people to live as one wishes to live.”

Oscar Wilde’s quote shows that true selfishness is not pursuing one’s own wants.

Instead, it is rather forcing one’s own way of life or preferences on others, without caring about their uniqueness and freedom.

“To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.”

Oscar Wilde’s quote suggests that a modern, flexible, and adaptable mind is one that looks forward to and is open to unexpected or surprising events.

“It’s absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.”

Oscar Wilde’s quote says that it’s pointless to call people good or bad because these moral judgments are too simple.

Instead, a person’s inherent appeal or lack of appeal, which can be described as “charming” or “tedious,” is a better way to describe them.

“Nothing worth knowing can be taught.”

Oscar Wilde’s quote suggests that the most valuable knowledge or wisdom is not something that can be taught or passed from one person to another.

It must be personally experienced or found.

Trinity College in Dublin.
Trinity College in Dublin. (Photo: Dudlajzov via Depositphotos, text added via

Oscar Wilde Art Quotes

Oscar Wilde was not only a well-known playwright and novelist.

He is also an art critic and ardent supporter of the Aesthetic movement, which emphasized art for art’s sake.

His views on art were often thought-provoking and insightful, challenging common ideas about what art is for and how it should be used.

“Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.”

This quote from “The Soul of Man Under Socialism” sums up Wilde’s view that art is an expression of the artist’s unique vision.

“No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved.”

This quote from “The Critic as Artist” shows that Wilde thought art wasn’t about making a point or teaching a lesson, it was about expressing the unique vision of the artist.

“All art is quite useless.”

This quote from the beginning of “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is one of Wilde’s most controversial about art.

It emphasizes the idea of art for art’s sake, without moral or practical goals.

“Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.”

Also from “The Critic as Artist,” this quote challenges the idea that art is just a reflection of life. Instead, Wilde says that life often takes its cues from art.

“Art is the only serious thing in the world. And the artist is the only person who is never serious.”

This quote from “A Few Maxims for the Instruction of the Over-Educated” shows how paradoxical Wilde’s view of art was.

He thought that art was a serious pursuit, but that artists should act in a non-serious way.

“Art, like Nature, has her monsters, things of bestial shape and with hideous voices.”

This line from “The Critic as Artist” says that art has monsters just like nature does.

It is a thought-provoking statement about the different ways art can be made.

“The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.”

Oscar Wilde is saying that books that society considers “immoral” are often the ones that tell uncomfortable truths or show how society is wrong and hypocritical.

Oscar Wilde Quotes on Death

The tomb of Oscar Wilde in Paris.
The tomb of Oscar Wilde in Paris. (Photo: merc67 via Depositphotos, text added via

Death is a part of life, and Oscar Wilde, with his unique blend of wit, wisdom, and eloquence, had a lot to say about it.

Here are some of his best quotes about death.

“Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no to-morrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace.”

This powerful quote comes from “The Canterville Ghost,” a short story with humor and heart that perfectly expresses Wilde’s poetic and romantic view of death.

“One can survive everything, nowadays, except death, and live down everything except a good reputation.”

This witty observation from “A Woman of No Importance” shows how Wilde could make even the most serious topics funny.

It’s a sarcastic comment on how reputations can change quickly and how death is permanent.

“To be premature is to be perfect. Death should take note of that.”

This quote from “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is a classic example of Wilde’s irreverent wit. He flips the idea of death on its head and suggests that dying too soon might be a form of perfection.

“The mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death.”

In “Salome,” this deep observation puts love above death in terms of how mysterious it is. It shows how Wilde believed in the power of love to change people.

“Most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.”

This quote suggests that many people live their lives based on conventional wisdom or “common sense”.

They only to find out too late that the most valuable and regret-free parts of life are the unique experiences and lessons learned from making mistakes.

Oscar Wilde Quotes on Marriage

The childhood home of Oscar Wilde on Merrion Square in Dublin
Mistakenly seen as the birthplace of Oscar Wilde in Dublin (the real location is on 21 Westland Row), this place on Merrion Square was his childhood home where he grew up. (Photo:

Oscar Wilde’s ideas about marriage, like many of his other ideas, were often full of irony and humor.

Here are a few of his most famous quotes about marriage:

“Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious: both are disappointed.”

This quote from “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is a great example of Wilde’s witty and slightly cynical view of marriage. It suggests that men and women marry for different reasons, and both end up disappointed.

“The one charm about marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties.”

This quote from “The Importance of Being Earnest” shows Wilde’s satirical view of marriage. It is a humorous commentary on the lies and pretenses that can be part of marriage.

“Never marry at all, Dorian. Men marry because they are tired, women, because they are curious: both are disappointed.”

Also from “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” this quote is a piece of advice given to Dorian Gray by the character Lord Henry about the disappointments of marriage.

“A man can be happy with any woman, as long as he does not love her.”

From “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” this quote gives a contradictory view of love and marriage. This is a classic Wildean quip, full of irony and cynicism.

“In married life three is company and two is none.”

In “The Importance of Being Earnest,” there is a humorous quote that makes fun of the idea that a third party is necessary to keep a marriage interesting.

Oscar Wilde Quotes FAQs

Oscar Wilde Portrait
Oscar Wilde Portrait (Photo: Everett Collection via Shutterstock)

What is the most famous Oscar Wilde quote?

Arguably, one of Wilde’s most famous quotes is: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

This quote encourages positive thinking and attitude despite adverse circumstances..

What did Oscar Wilde say when he died?

Oscar Wilde’s supposedly final words were filled with his trademark wit: “Either that wallpaper goes, or I do.”

In fact, it is not known for sure if he actually said this.

However, the quote does show his keen eye for beauty and his humorous outlook on life, even in the face of death.

What is Wilde’s most critical quote?

One of Wilde’s most critical quotes is, “The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame.”

Here, Wilde criticizes society’s hypocrisy by saying that works called “immoral” often show uncomfortable truths about society itself.

Oscar Wilde Quotes for You

And there we have it! A taste of the wit, wisdom, and charm of the ever-quotable Oscar Wilde. 

When it comes to quotes Oscar Wilde was a true master. 

From the incisive Oscar Wilde quotes on life to the poignant Oscar Wilde love quotes, the breadth of his wisdom is truly staggering. 

So, whether you’re a lifelong fan of Wilde or a newcomer to his works, we hope these quotes have given you a fresh appreciation for his unique literary genius. 

Remember, as Wilde himself said, “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” 

So, keep reading, keep exploring, and keep falling in love with the magic of words! Keep looking at the stars.

If you are looking for more Irish inspirational quotes, why don’t you check out our selection of the best James Joyce quotes or the most inspirational William Butler Yeats quotes.