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Frank J. Wilstach, comp. A Dictionary of Similes. 1916.


Wit is like a ghost, much more often talked of than seen.

Wit kills the soul, as argument kills reason.
—Honoré de Balzac

Full of wit as a ginger-bottle is of pop.
—J. R. Bartlett’s Dictionary of Americanisms

Wits, like Physicians, never can agree,
When of a different Society.
—Aphra Behn

His wit is like fire in a flint, that is nothing while it is in, and nothing again as soon as it is out.
—Samuel Butler

All wit and fancy, like a diamond,
The more exact and curious ’tis ground,
Is forc’d every Carate to abate,
As much in value as it wants in weight.
—Samuel Butler

Wit’s like a luxuriant vine;
Unless to virtue’s prop it join,
Firm and erect toward Heaven bound,
Though it with beauteous leaves and pleasant fruit be crown’d
It lies, deformed and rotting, on the ground.
—Abraham Cowley

Wit, like fierce-claret, when’t begins to pall,
Neglected lies, as ’f of no use at all;
But, in its full perfection of decay,
Turns vinegar, and comes again in play.
—Earl of Dorset

Wit, like hunger, will be with great difficulty restrained from falling into vice and ignorance, where is great plenty and variety of food.
—Henry Fielding

True wit is like the brilliant stone,
Dug from the Indian mine,
Which boasts two different powers in one,
To cut as well as shine.
—Grub-street Journal, 1730

Homebred wits are like home-made wines, sweet, luscious, spiritless, without body, and ill to keep.
—Julius Charles Hare

Wit, like an insect clamb’ring up a wall,
Mounts to one point, and then of course must fall,
No wiser, if its pains proceed, than end,
And all its journey to descend.
—Walter Harte

Wits, like misers, always covet more.
—Walter Harte

Wit is like love—the softest is the best.
—Aaron Hill

Wits, like drunken men with swords, are apt to draw their steel upon their best acquaintances.
—Douglas Jerrold

Wit, like money, bears an extra value when rung down immediately it is wanted. Men pay severely who require credit.
—Douglas Jerrold

Wit, like every other power, has its boundaries. Its success depends on the aptitude of others to receive impressions; and that as some bodies, indissolute by heat, can set the furnace and crucible at defiance, there are minds upon which the rays of fancy may be pointed without effect, and which no fire of sentiment can agitate or exalt.
—Dr. Samuel Johnson

Bring all wits to the Rack, whose Noses are euer like Swine spoyling and rooting vp the Muses Gardens, and their whole Bodies like Moles, as blindly working vnder Earth to cast any, the least, hilles vpon Vertue.
—Ben Jonson

For wits, like adjectives, are known to cling to that which stands alone.
—Robert Lloyd

Nor make to dangerous wit a vain pretense,
But wisely rest content with modest sense;
For wit, like wine, intoxicates the brain,
Too strong for feeble women to sustain:
Of those who claim it more than half have none;
And half of those who have it are undone.
—Lord Lyttelton

Wit and wisdom differ; Wit is upon the sudden turn, Wisdom is in bringing about ends. Nature must be the ground-work of Wit and Art; otherwise whatever is done will prove but Jack-Pudding’s work. Wit must grow like Fingers. If it be taken from others, ’tis like Plums stuck upon black Thorns; there they are for a while, but they come to nothing.
—John Selden

Wit … blunt as the fencer’s foils.
—William Shakespeare

One wit, like a knuckle of ham in soup, gives a zest and flavor to the dish; but more than one serves only to spoil the pottage.
—Tobias Smollett

Some men’s wit is like a dark lantern, which serves their own turn and guides them their own way, but is never known (according to the Scripture phrase) either to shine forth before men or to glorify their Father in heaven.
—Jonathan Swift

As in smooth oil the razor best is whet,
So wit is by politeness keenest set.
—Edward Young