Lewis Carroll Quotes: Whimsically Inspiring Words

Updated February 16, 2022
Portrait Of Lewis Carroll With Quote
    Portrait Of Lewis Carroll With Quote
    Historical Picture Archive / Corbis Historical / Getty Images editorial
    Used under Getty Images editorial license

Much like Alice through the rabbit hole, readers find themselves irresistibly drawn to the curious Wonderland of Lewis Carroll’s writing. What looks like “stuff and nonsense” (as Alice herself may scoff) soon makes way to fascinating wordplay and rhetoric — and surprisingly deep philosophy from characters spun from the whimsy of Carroll’s imagination.

Fanciful Quotes by Lewis Carroll

Credited with creating both everyday words (such as snark and chortle) and distinctly Wonderland words (such as boojum and frabjous), Lewis Carroll played with language in the same way abstract artists play with paint. He showcased his craft in both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, often weaving the quotes seamlessly into conversation.

  • “He thought he saw an Elephant / That practised on a fife: / He looked again, and found it was / A letter from his wife. / 'At length I realise,' he said, / 'The bitterness of Life!'” - Sylvie and Bruno

  • “’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves / Did gyre and gimble in the wabe; / All mimsy were the borogoves, / And the mome raths outgrabe.” - “Jabberwocky,” Through the Looking-Glass

  • “Beloved pupil! Tamed by thee, / Addish-, Subtrac-, Multiplica-tion, / Division, Fractions, Rule of Three, / Attest thy deft manipulation!” - A Tangled Tale

  • “And as in uffish thought he stood / The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame, / Came whiffling through the tulgey wood, / And burbled as it came!” - “Jabberwocky,” Through the Looking-Glass

  • “‘It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,’ the Queen remarked.” - Through the Looking-Glass

  • “Why is a raven like a writing-desk?” - Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

  • “The Lion, as any one can tell you who has been chased by them as often as I have, is a very savage animal: and there are certain individuals among them, though I will not guarantee it as a general law, who do not drink coffee." - “Syllogisms,” The Game of Logic

  • “Twinkle, twinkle little bat / How I wonder what you’re at! / Up above the world you fly / Like a tea-tray in the sky.” - Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll Quotes With Quirky Wordplay

“Well, slithy means ‘lithe and slimy.’ ‘Lithe’ is the same as ‘active.’ You see it’s like a portmanteau — there are two meanings packed up into one word.” Carroll’s invention of the portmanteau, explained by Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking-Glass, is just one example of his clever wordplay.

  • “LESS BREAD! MORE TAXES! — and then all the people cheered again, and one man, who was more excited than the rest, flung his hat high into the air, and shouted (as well as I could make out) ‘Who roar for the Sub-Warden?’ Everybody roared, but whether it was for the Sub-Warden, or not, did not clearly appear: some were shouting ‘Bread!’ and some ‘Taxes!’, but no one seemed to know what it was they really wanted.” - Sylvie and Bruno

  • “‘We called him Tortoise because he taught us,’ said the Mock Turtle angrily: ‘really you are very dull!’” - Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

  • “‘That’s the reason they’re called lessons,’ the Gryphon remarked: ‘because they lessen from day to day.’” - Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

  • “‘I don't like his calling your father an old party,’ Mad Mathesis whispered to her niece, as they crossed the hall. And Clara had only just time to whisper in reply ‘he meant the whole party,’ before they were ushered into the library, and the sight of the five solemn faces there assembled chilled her into silence.” - A Tangled Tale

  • “‘Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with,’ the Mock Turtle replied; ‘and then the different branches of Arithmetic — Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.’” - Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

  • “‘Contrariwise,’ continued Tweedledee, ‘if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.’” - Through the Looking-Glass

  • “People have asked the question ‘Can a Thing exist without any Attributes belonging to it?’ It is a very puzzling question, and I'm not going to try to answer it: let us turn up our noses, and treat it with contemptuous silence, as if it really wasn't worth noticing.” - The Game of Logic

  • “Why, if a fish came to me, and told me he was going a journey, I should say ‘With what porpoise?’” - Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

  • “The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday but never jam today.” - Through the Looking-Glass

  • “‘Not the same thing a bit!’ said the Hatter. ‘You might just as well say that ‘I see what I eat’ is the same thing as ‘I eat what I see’!’” - Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

  • “Most things you know ought to be studied; even a trunk is studded with nails.” - Letter to Gertrude Chataway, 1878

  • “‘[The tree] says ‘Bough-wough!’ cried a Daisy: ‘that’s why its branches are called boughs!’” - Through the Looking-Glass


Philosophical Lewis Carroll Quotes About Life

When Alice eats or drinks something in Wonderland, she soon realizes that there is more than meets the eye. Such is the case with Lewis Carroll’s writing — while his words seem nonsensical on the surface, you don’t need to look much closer to find a deeper meaning.

  • “Perhaps the hardest thing in all literature— at least I have found it so: by no voluntary effort can I accomplish it: I have to take it as it comes— is to write anything original. And perhaps the easiest is, when once an original line has been struck out, to follow it up, and to write any amount more to the same tune.” - Sylvie and Bruno

  • “Be sure the safest rule is that we should not dare to live in any scene in which we dare not die.” - Sylvie and Bruno

  • “If everybody minded their own business, the world would go around a great deal faster than it does." - Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

  • “It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” - Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

  • “You will find these seven words — PROPOSITION, ATTRIBUTE, TERM, SUBJECT, PREDICATE, PARTICULAR, UNIVERSAL — charmingly useful, if any friend should happen to ask if you have ever studied Logic. Mind you bring all seven words into your answer, and you friend will go away deeply impressed—’a sadder and a wiser man.’” - The Game of Logic

  • “Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” - Through the Looking-Glass

  • “You may Rush upon your Potato-beds, or your Strawberry-beds, without doing much harm: you may even Rush upon your Balcony (unless it is a new house, built by contract, and with no clerk of the works) and may survive the foolhardy enterprise: but if you once Rush upon your FATE — why, you must take the consequences!” - The Game of Logic

  • “Is Life itself a dream, I wonder?” - Sylvie and Bruno

  • “​​Alice had got so much into the way of expecting nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen, that it seemed quite dull and stupid for life to go on in the common way.” - Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

  • “She generally gave herself very good advice (though she very seldom followed it).” - Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

  • “Society would be much less liable to panics and other delusions, and POLITICAL life, especially, would be a totally different thing, if even a majority of the arguments, that scattered broadcast over the world, were correct! But it is all the other way, I fear.” - The Game of Logic


We’re All Mad Here

Whether you’re a White Rabbit, an angry Caterpillar or a Mad Hatter, there’s something for everyone in Lewis Carroll’s writing. For another look at Alice and the art of gibberish, check out: