This page includes 50 of the most famous Mark Twain quotes from his lectures, conversations and journalistic articles. Samuel Clemens used several pen names before humorously lighting on ‘Mark Twain,’ the call made by Mississippi river boatmen gauging the depth of the river. He is the author of what some regard as the Great American Novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

He was also a critic, journalist, and inspirational speaker. American culture is spread with Mark Twain quotations, which are used routinely in American discourse. In that sense he can be seen as the American Shakespeare, as well, like Shakespeare, being a great writer.

The Shakespearean language we use daily comes from his plays and poems. There is no record of any letters he wrote, or speeches he made or conversations he had. Mark Twain, on the other hand, made countless speeches, gave countless lectures and wrote articles on a multitude of subjects. The following fifty Mark Twain quotes are taken from those lectures, conversations and journalistic articles:

  1. Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.

  2. Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life

  3. A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining, but wants it back the minute it begins to rain.

  4. I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.

  5. The finest clothing made is a person’s own skin, but, of course, society demands something more than this.

  6. Do something every day that you don’t want to do. This is the golden rule for acquiring the habit of doing your duty without pain.

  7. Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.

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

  9. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

  10. The secret of getting ahead is getting started.

  11. It is wiser to find out than suppose.

  12. The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.

  13. Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.

  14. A half-truth is the most cowardly of lies.

  15. All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.

  16. I can teach anybody how to get what they want out of life. The problem is that I can’t find anybody who can tell me what they want.

  17. The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.

  18. Work is a necessary evil to be avoided.

  19. Life is short, break the rules. Forgive quickly, kiss slowly. Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile.”

  20. Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you would rather have talked.

  21. A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.

  22. Thousands of geniuses live and die undiscovered – either by themselves or by others.

  23. It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not deserve them.

  24. Life does not consist mainly, or even largely, of facts or happenings. It consist mainly of the storm of thoughts that is forever flowing through one’s head.

  25. Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.

  26. Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.

  27. With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate, and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity.

  28. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.

  29. The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog.

  30. Give every day the chance to become the most beautiful of your life.

  31. Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.

  32. The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

  33. Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.

  34. Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.

  35. Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.

  36. The trouble is not in dying for a friend, but in finding a friend worth dying for.

  37. It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

  38. Any emotion, if it is sincere, is involuntary.

  39. I can live for two months on a good compliment.

  40. Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.

  41. To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.

  42. It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.

  43. Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.

  44. The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.

  45. Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.

  46. Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.

  47. I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened

  48. Books are for people who wish they were somewhere else.

  49. A clear conscience is the sure sign of a bad memory.

  50. A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

And that’s your lot for Mark Twainquotes, though if you’re after more info we do have a great biography of Mark Twain here. What do you think of the quotes – any we’re missing? Let us know in the comments below!

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1 reply
  1. David
    David says:

    In my humble opinion Mark Twain was one of THE great minds of the late nineteenth-early twentieth century in the United States: humorous and irascible. His primary home (for lack of a better way to put it) in Farmington, just outside Hartford, capital of the state of Connecticut, so very much reflects his personality. One can tour it only with a guide who is invariably well versed in the man. (A short distance away, no more than a five-minute walk, is the home of Harriet Beecher Stowe, American abolitionist and writer of ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’; his home gets five times as many visitors as hers.) He was popular—an incredibly popular writer. A new book of his would sell its first printing of 100,000 copies virtually overnight—while at the same time a novel of Henry James might sell 5,000. He felt he could write better and/or more easily in the presence of cats, but because he had several homes, he felt it would be unfair to own a cat (though in truth cats own you…). His solution? He would RENT cars from neighborhood children, and that way, he did not feel the guilt of abandoning them when going from one home to another. But there was another side to him—the death of his favorite young daughter Suzy, from which he never fully recovered; the failure of every business venture in which he was involved; the necessity of his lengthy travels lecturing when he longed to be at home stemming from debts from business failures; ultimately writing his final piece, ‘The Mysterious Stranger, reflecting, some say, his readiness to die. For such a humorist to have had such a sad, even tragic life seems unfathomable, and yet here he is….


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