Guide to Literary Terms Epigram

Start Your Free Trial


Epigram - a witty, ingenious, and pointed saying that is tersely expressed.

Download Guide to Literary Terms Study Guide

Subscribe Now

The term is from the Greek epigramma, meaning “an inscription,” and was formed by combining epi, meaning “upon,” and gramma, meaning “a writing,” or graphein, meaning “to write.”

Originally, it meant an inscription or epitaph, usually in verse, on a building, tomb, or coin. Then it came to mean a short poem ending in a witty or ingenious turn of thought.

Pope included an epigram in his “Essay on Criticism”:

Be not the first by whom the new are tried,
Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.
lines 335 – 336

see: antithesis, aphorism, epithet, proverb

Explore all literary terms.