100 of the Best Quotes from Famous People

Updated: Mar. 12, 2024

Walk down Reader's Digest memory lane with these quotes from famous people throughout the decades.

Famous people, famous quotes

Many of the most memorable quotations are attributed to famous people (whether they actually said them or not!). In honor of Reader’s Digest’s 100th anniversary, we dug through our archives to find some of the best quotes from famous people over the past 100 years. The dates in parentheses are when they appeared in the magazine or one of our books. For more quotable quotes, check out these other Reader’s Digest compilations: funniest quotes of all time, uplifting quotes, and confidence quotes. You can also get inspiration and motivation from these Barack Obama quotes and George Washington quotes!

Kurt Vonnegut quoterd.com, Getty Images

Funny quotes from famous people

1. “True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.” —Kurt Vonnegut (March 2015)

2. “Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”—Oscar Wilde (June 1954)

3. “Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason.” —Jerry Seinfeld (February 1997)

4. “Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight.” —Phyllis Diller (November 2016)

5. “If you can’t be kind, at least be vague.” —Judith Martin (September 1997)

6. “Misers are no fun to live with, but they make great ancestors.” —Tom Snyder (September 1998)

7. “The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they’re okay, then it’s you.” —Rita Mae Brown (December 2002)

8. “If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.” —Dorothy Parker (March 2005)

9. “Doing nothing is very hard to do. You never know when you’re finished.”—Leslie Nielsen (April 2007)

10. “When in doubt, look intelligent.” —Garrison Keillor (April 2008)

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Family quotes from famous people

11. “In America, there are two classes of travel—first class and with children.” —Robert Benchley (July 1934)

12. “There is no such thing as fun for the whole family.” —Jerry Seinfeld (December/January 2009/2010)

13. “Just be good and kind to your children. Not only are they the future of the world, they’re the ones who can sign you into a home.” —Dennis Miller (Reader’s Digest Quotable Quotes, 2013)

14. “A perfect parent is a person with excellent child-rearing theories and no actual children.” —Dave Barry (Reader’s Digest Quotable Quotes, 2013)

15. “Instead of getting married again, I’m going to find a woman I don’t like and give her a house.” —Rod Stewart (October 2016)

16. “Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes.” —Jim Carrey (Reader’s Digest Quotable Quotes, 2013)

17. “If you can give your child only one gift, let it be enthusiasm.” —Bruce Barton (December 1934)

18. “If you are not yelling at your kids, you are not spending enough time with them.” —Reese Witherspoon (April 2015)

19. “Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.” —Alex Haley (December 1987)

20. “The simplest toy, one which even the youngest child can operate, is called a grandparent.” —Sam Levenson (July 1985)

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Happiness quotes from famous people

21. “The world is extremely interesting to a joyful soul.” —Alexandra Stoddard (March 1997)

22. “Not in doing what you like but in liking what you do is the secret of happiness.” —J.M. Barrie (August 1933)

23. “To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.” —Bertrand Russell (December 1950)

24. “The older you get the more you realize that kindness is synonymous with happiness.” —Lionel Barrymore (April 1953)

25. “Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length.” —Robert Frost (March 1959)

26. “Anybody who tells you money can’t buy happiness never had any.” —Samuel L. Jackson (August 2004)

27.  “Happiness is good health and a bad memory.” —Ingrid Bergman (October 1990)

28. “Happiness is having a large, caring, close-knit family in another city.” —George Burns (December/January 2009/2010)

29. “Don’t wait around for other people to be happy for you. Any happiness you get you’ve got to make yourself.” —Alice Walker (June 1992)

30. “Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.” —John Barrymore (July 1984)

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Famous people quotes about human nature

31. “Every cynic is a sentimentalist under the skin.” —Louis L’Amour (September 1996)

32. Nobody has ever measured, even the poets, how much a heart can hold.” —Zelda Fitzgerald (June 1985)

33. “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” —Oscar Wilde (August 1940)

34. “Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are and what they ought to be.” —William Hazlitt (August 1940)

35. “Man is the only animal that blushes—or needs to.” —Mark Twain (November 1933)

36. “No man who is in a hurry is quite civilized.”—Will Durant (January 1941)

37. “I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than to be crowded on a velvet cushion.” —Henry David Thoreau (January 1941)

38. “The best index to a person’s character is (a) how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and (b) how he treats people who can’t fight back.” —Abigail Van Buren (August 1980)

39. “I don’t know why people are so keen to put the details of their private life in public; they forget that invisibility is a superpower.” —Banksy (September 2015)

40. “Morality is only moral when it is voluntary.” —Lincoln Steffens (February 1965)

41. “A man always has two reasons for doing anything—a good reason and the real reason.” —J. Pierpont Morgan (June 1940)

42. “The holy passion of friendship is of so sweet and steady and loyal and enduring a nature that it will last through a whole lifetime, if not asked to lend money.” —Mark Twain (May 1941)

43. “One of the lessons of history is that nothing is often a good thing to do and always a clever thing to say.” —Will Durant (November 1972)

44. “It’s not necessary to take a person’s advice to make him feel good—all you have to do is ask it.” — Richard Armour (January 1952)

45. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”—Maya Angelou (August 2013)

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Famous people quotes about life

46. “There is only one certainty in life and that is that nothing is certain.” —G.K. Chesterton (June 1926)

47. “Make it a rule of life never to regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can’t build on it; it’s only good for wallowing.” —Katherine Mansfield (April 1941)

48. “What do we live for if it is not to make life less difficult for each other.” —George Eliot (March 1983)

49. “It is a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.” —W. Somerset Maugham (December 1987)

50. “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” —Mohandas K. Gandhi (June 1992)

51. “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson (September 1974)

52. “Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful.” —Annette Funicello (November 1998)

53. “The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.” —B.B. King (September 1996)

54. “My father gave me the best advice of my life. He said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t wake up at 65 years old and think about what you should have done with your life.’” —George Clooney (July 2006)

55. “You only have to do a very few things right in your life—so long as you don’t do too many things wrong.” —Warren Buffet (July 2013)

56. “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” — James Baldwin (August 1971)

57. “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” —Andy Warhol (April 2020)

58. “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” —Peter F. Drucker (September 1997)

59. “In real life, I assure you, there is no such thing as algebra.” —Fran Lebowitz (November 2010)

60. “Never keep up with the Joneses. Drag them down to your level. It’s cheaper.” —Quentin Crisp (October 2019)

61. “Nobody gets to live life backward. Look ahead—that’s where your future lies.” —Ann Landers (August 1994)

62. “Experience is not what happens to you; it is what you do with what happens to you.” —Aldous Huxley (March 1956)

Mark Twain life quoterd.com, Getty Images

Famous people quotes about work

63. “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is the probable reason why so few engage in it.” —Henry Ford (June 1922)

64. “Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.” —Walter Lippmann (December 1941)

65. “Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.” —Mark Twain (March 1963)

66. “Amateurs wait for inspiration. The rest of us just get up and go to work.”—Chuck Close (August 2007)

67. “I am only an average man, but, by George, I work harder at it than the average man.” —Theodore Roosevelt (March 1940)

68. “If you have a job without any aggravations, you don’t have a job.” —Malcolm Forbes (May 1980)

69. “Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.” —Robert Benchley (February 2019)

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Uplifting quotes from famous people

70. “There are no hopeless situations; there are only people who have grown hopeless about them.” —Clare Boothe Luce (May 1980)

71. “Pay no attention to what the critics say. A statue has never been erected in honor of a critic.” —Jean Sibelius (October 1979)

72. “A problem is a chance for you to do your best.” —Duke Ellington (October 1984)

73. “If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to it!” —Jonathan Winters (June 1990)

74. “Time you enjoy wasting was not wasted.” —John Lennon (Reader’s Digest Quotable Quotes, 2013)

75. “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow; it only saps today of its strength.” —A.J. Cronin (April 1955)

76. “If you are too careful, you are so occupied in being careful that you are sure to stumble over something.” —Gertrude Stein (September 1996)

77. “Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to the error that counts.” — Nikki Giovanni (April 1998)

78. “Don’t be afraid to be afraid.” —Maurice Chevalier (May 1959)

79. “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” —Albert Einstein (May 1970)

80. “The time is always right to do what is right.” —Martin Luther King, Jr  (March 1985)

81. “You can’t turn back the clock. But you can wind it up again.” —Bonnie Prudden (December 1980)

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Success quotes from famous people

82. “Success is falling nine times and getting up ten.” —Jon Bon Jovi (January 2007)

83. You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take. —Wayne Gretzky (October 1999)

84. You’ve got to try your luck at least once a day because you could be going around lucky all day and not even know it. —Jimmy Dean (December 2020/January 2021)

85. “Be like a duck. Calm on the surface but always paddling like the dickens underneath.” —Michael Caine (June 2016)

86. “The nice thing about being a celebrity is that when you bore people, they think it’s their fault.” —Henry Kissinger (August 2007)

87. “Everybody has to be somebody to somebody to be anybody.” —Malcolm S. Forbes (November 1972)

88. “People ask me sometimes… When will there be enough women on the court? And my answer is, When there are nine.” —Ruth Bader Ginsberg (September 2015)

89. “Anything’s possible if you’ve got have enough nerve.” —J.K. Rowling (November 2003)

90. “Thankfully, perseverance is a great substitute for talent.” —Steve Martin (March 2019)

91. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no use being a damn fool about it.” —W.C. Fields (October 1949)

92. “You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once. —Oprah Winfrey (November 1997)

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Famous people quotes about youth and aging

93. “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” —Fred Rogers (November 1987)

94. “Age is a high price to pay for maturity.” —Tom Stoppard (August 1983)

95. “By the time you’re 80 years old you’ve learned everything. You only have to remember it.” —George Burns (December 1977)

96. “After 30, a body has a mind of its own.” —Bette Midler (June 1982)

97. “I wish I could tell you it gets better, but it doesn’t get better. You get better.” —Joan Rivers (March 2016)

98. “One of the best parts of growing older? You can flirt all you like since you’ve become harmless.”  —Liz Smith (June 2003)

99. “Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it and wiser than the one that comes after it.” —George Orwell (August 1989)

100. “The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.” —Lucille Ball (Reader’s Digest Quotable Quotes, 2013)

Additional reporting research done by Linda Roman and Greg Daugherty


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Originally Published in Reader's Digest