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Silence

  • Silence can be so much more eloquent than speech.

  • Silence too can be indiscreet.

    • Natalie Clifford Barney,
    • "Scatterings" (1910), in Anna Livia, ed., A Perilous Advantage: The Best of Natalie Clifford Barney ()
  • Sometimes I feel that every word spoken and every gesture made merely serve to exacerbate misunderstandings. Then what I would really like is to escape into a great silence and impose that silence on everyone else.

  • ... truth can be outraged by silence quite as cruelly as by speech.

  • His silences had not proceeded from the unplumbed depths of his knowledge. He merely had nothing to say.

  • Silence is all the genius a fool has ...

  • Speech is often barren; but silence also does not necessarily brood over a full nest.

  • ... there are times when you have to speak because silence is betrayal.

  • ... silence is very moving to youth, for who knows what it hides?

  • Silence settled on the courtroom like snow.

  • ... if you listen long enough — or is it deep enough? — the silence of a lover can speak plainer than any words! Only you must know how to listen. Pain must have taught you how.

  • Silence may be as variously shaded as speech ...

  • A great silence has descended on me for the last six months. I am as silent as an Arab in the desert, as dry, thirsty, and full of wonder and rumours which do not materialize into camels or travellers at all, but just vanish into the silent spaces from where they came. I expect this is a good thing though it is extremely irritating — the brink of a voice and never a voice.

    • May Sarton,
    • 1942, in Susan Sherman, ed., May Sarton: Selected Letters 1916-1954 ()
  • ... while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.

    • Audre Lorde,
    • The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action ()
    • Sinister Wisdom
  • ... silence and invisibility go hand in hand with powerlessness ...

  • ... stoicism and silence does not serve us nor our communities, only the forces of things as they are.

  • Silence is the bluntest of blunt instruments. It seems to hammer you into the ground. It drives you deeper and deeper into your own guilt. It makes the voices inside your head accuse you more viciously than any outside voices ever could.

  • Then silence happened: / the silence that is born of water, foaming, / Suddenly it curdles in a looking glass. / So we grow quiet. We do / the same as lakes to see the sky.

  • I'm a woman sitting here with all my words intact / like a basket of green fruit.

    • Rosario Castellanos,
    • "Silence Near an Ancient Stone" (1952), in Maureen Ahern, ed., A Rosario Castellanos Reader ()
  • Speaking and silence are both survival tools.

  • ... the delicacy that respects a friend's silence is one of the charms of life.

  • Silence is the garment of light.

  • The emptiness was intense, like the stillness in a great factory when the machinery stops running.

    • Willa Cather,
    • "Neighbour Rosicky," in Woman's Home Companion ()
  • To sin by silence, when we should protest, / Makes cowards out of men.

  • Silence remains, inescapably, a form of speech ...

    • Susan Sontag,
    • "The Aesthetics of Silence," Styles of Radical Will ()
  • I think we should not try so hard to talk. Sometimes it is wise to let things grow more roots before one blows them away with words.

  • Sticks and stones are hard on bones. / Aimed with angry art, / Words can sting like anything. / But silence breaks the heart.

    • Phyllis McGinley,
    • "A Choice of Weapons," The Love Letters of Phyllis McGinley ()
  • The deepest feeling always shows itself in silence; / not in silence, but restraint.

  • But silences have a climax, when you have got to speak.

  • Silence sat in the taxi, as though a stranger had got in.

  • Silences can be as different as sounds.

  • ... whenever possible I avoid talking. Reprieve from talking is my idea of a holiday. At risk of seeming unsociable, which I am, I admit I love to be left in a beatific trance, when I am in one. Friendly Romans recognize that wish.

  • ... silence is one of the great arts of conversation ...

    • Hannah More,
    • "Thoughts on Conversation," Essays on Various Subjects ()
  • ... oblivion has been noticed as the offspring of silence.

    • Hannah More,
    • "On the Propriety of Introducing Religion in General Conversation," Practical Piety ()
  • Where language and naming are power, / silence is oppression, is violence.

    • Adrienne Rich,
    • "The Burning of Paper Instead of Children," The Will to Change ()
  • Lying is done with words, and also with silence.

    • Adrienne Rich,
    • "Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying," On Lies, Secrets, and Silence ()
  • Where the story-teller is loyal, eternally and unswervingly loyal to the story, there, in the end, silence will speak. Where the story has been betrayed, silence is but emptiness.

  • Who ... tells a finer tale than any of us? Silence does.

  • A comfortable quiet had settled between them. A silence that was like newly fallen snow.

  • The appetite for silence is seldom an acquired taste.

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • in Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Letters of Emily Dickinson, vol. 3 ()
  • I fear a Man of frugal Speech — / I fear a Silent Man — / Haranguer — I can over take — / Or Babbler — entertain — / But He who weigheth — While the Rest — / Expend their further pound — / Of this Man — I am wary — / I fear that He is Grand — .

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • c. 1862, in Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson ()
  • Perhaps quiet places are rare because too few of us admit how much we need them. Noise seems to be the norm, and we are afraid to demand equal time for silence.

  • I wish we had more outposts, not of progress, but of silence.

  • The world is afraid of silence. Radios blare. Televisions are never turned off. The stereo is on at top volume. The voice speaks whether or not it has something to say.

  • Silence is another form of sound.

  • ... we perceive silence where, in fact, there is a muffler.

  • In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.

    • Mother Teresa,
    • in Becky Benenate and Joseph Durepos, eds., No Greater Love ()
  • We cannot find God in noise or agitation. Nature: trees, flowers, and grass grow in silence. The stars, the moon, and the sun move in silence. What is essential is not what we say but what God tells us and what He tells others through us. In silence He listens to us; in silence He speaks to our souls. In silence we are granted the privilege of listening to His voice.

    • Mother Teresa,
    • in Becky Benenate and Joseph Durepos, eds., No Greater Love ()
  • ... silence is consent. And silence where life and liberty is at stake, where by a timely protest we could stay the destoyer's hand, and do not do so, is as criminal as giving actual aid to the oppressor, for it answers his purpose ...

  • Silence more musical than any song ...

  • Silences, as every observer knows, have strange characteristics all their own — passionate silences, and hateful silences, and silences full of friendly, purring content.

  • Silence, however, is sometimes as irritating as noise.

  • To refuse to respond is in itself a response.

  • The silence of a man who loves to praise, is a censure sufficiently severe ...

  • There's a difference between silence meaning agreement and being silenced.

  • Silence can pose a greater threat than the difficult truth.

  • A hush had settled like a moth on the day.

  • Reticences are as revealing as avowals.

  • ... quiet settled in the room like snow.

  • Words are magic: they can whistle out their evil in a man, but they can also persuade the sleeping angel in him to wake up and speak its wisdom. But silence can never create either excellence or virtue.

    • Lillian Smith,
    • 1960, in Margaret Rose Gladney, ed., How Am I to Be Heard? Letters of Lillian Smith ()
  • ... a small silence came between us, as precise as a picture hanging on the wall.

  • When great principles are involved, I deem silence criminal.

    • Sara G. Stanley,
    • 1864, in Dorothy Sterling, ed., We Are Your Sisters ()
  • Silence always gives consent ...

  • Real speech can only come from complete silence. Incomplete silence is as fussy as deliberate conversation.

  • Life ought to be lived on a basis of silence, where truth blossoms.

  • He ceased his remarks, and agin silence rained in the room.

  • Silence has a regenerative power of its own. It is always sacred. It always returns you home ...

  • True silence is a garden enclosed, where alone the soul can meet its God.

  • True silence is the speech of lovers.

  • You can't improve on saying nothing.

    • Golda Meir,
    • in Israel and Mary Shenker, eds., As Good as Golda ()
  • It's amazing how much you can hear when no one is saying anything.

  • People who know the truth have no business to allow the powers of darkness to silence them on any point that matters.

  • The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life flow no longer into our souls. Every truth we see is one to give to the world, not to keep to ourselves alone ...

  • ... silence brooded like a guilty thing.

  • It takes a certain amount of courage to let the field lie fallow until you have something to say.

  • Lundy was stepping along innocently beside me, gracefully silent, no doubt enjoying this silence, for he was one who never practiced speech as a relief for intellectual hysteria. He could retain his thoughts like a gentleman.

  • Silence is not a thing we make; it is something into which we enter. It is always there ... All we can make is noise.

  • ... silence sweeter is than speech.

  • It wasn't that I was stupid ... It was just that there didn't seem to be a lot to say that someone wasn't already saying.

  • ... silence, with time, atrophies the voice — a loss with such grave consequences that it is a form of dispossession.

    • Lisa Suhair Majaj,
    • in Joanna Kadi, ed., Food for Our Grandmothers: Writings by Arab-American and Arab-Canadian Feminists ()
  • ... silence inappropriately sought had human disconnection as its end, but lovingly sought it could bring comfort and peace.

  • I have always looked on disobedience toward the oppressive as the only way to use the miracle of having been born. I have always looked on the silence of those who do not react or who indeed applaud as the real death of a woman or a man.

  • Silence is the first thing within the power of the enslaved to shatter. From that shattering, everything else spills forth.

  • You are given a nose to breathe through so you can keep your mouth shut.

    • Pat O'Haire,
    • in Leonard Louis Levinson, ed., Bartlett's Unfamiliar Quotations ()
  • There was just one instant of absolute silence, one of those magnetic moments when Fate seems to have dropped the spool on which she was spinning the threads of a life, and is just stooping in order to pick it up.

  • There are moments when silence becomes an unpardonable sin.

  • Such silence has an actual sound, the sound of disappearance.

  • Every day silence harvests its victims. Silence is a mortal illness.

  • Part of what makes a situation traumatic is not talking about it. Talking reduces trauma symptoms. When we don't talk about trauma, we remain emotionally illiterate. Our most powerful feelings go unnamed and unspoken.

  • A story is told as much by silence as by speech.

  • Enigmatic — the quality of keeping silent and making people wonder if one is stupid rather than opening one's mouth and removing all doubt.

  • Silence can be the worst ridicule.

  • ... quiet is the oxygen of creativity.

    • Marjorie Miller,
    • "Weighing Words," in The Los Angeles Times Magazine ()
  • By silence gain a reputation for wisdom instead of for folly.

  • We have to learn, being all untaught, / The miracles by silence wrought, / And by the solitude that lies / Inside the bosom.

  • Silence gives consent.

  • ... she had learned ... the value of silences in an important conversation, and the art of not weakening a statement by a postscript.

  • In today's world silence is in short supply; this is a serious problem for our society, and anything we can do to help people recover a sense of silence as a necessary and positive element in human life is a contribution to the general sanity.

  • Silence has been recorded throughout history as affirmation.

  • It was your silence that hooked me, / so like my father's.

  • ... one learns to keep silent and draw one's own confusions.

  • I work out of silence, because silence makes up for my actual lack of working space. Silence substitutes for actual space, for psychological distance, for a sense of privacy and intactness. In this sense silence is absolutely necessary.

  • Silence gives consent.

  • We do not yet know each other because we have not yet dared to be silent together.

    • Georgette Leblanc,
    • in Janet Flanner, trans., Souvenirs: My Life With Maeterlinck ()
  • I have come to think of violence as a self-perpetuating mania of the power of the aggressive over those less strong.

  • An audience of twenty thousand, sitting on its hands, could not have produced such an echoing silence.

  • One must learn to be silent just as one must learn to talk.

  • There can be nothing more baffling in a human relationship than silence, the dark loom of doubts and questions unexpressed.

  • Your silence will not protect you.

    • Audre Lorde,
    • "The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action," Sinister Wisdom ()
  • There is a certain silence which is language, / It swells, keeps time, like music, like passion.

  • Silence, that inspired dealer, takes the day's deck, the life, all in a crazy heap, lays it out, and plays its flawless hand of solitaire, every card in place. Scoops them up, and does it all over again.

  • ... silence was the first prayer I learned to trust ...

  • ... silence has a suffocating, deadening effect. And the thing that dies first is hope.

  • Silence isn't always golden, you know. Sometimes it's just plain yellow.

    • Jan H. Kemp,
    • in Sherry Ruth Anderson and Patricia Hopkins, The Feminine Face of God ()
  • Their silence was gauche. Melissa's was not; she was practiced in the art of saying nothing without discourtesy.

  • Words may be shafts that wound with piercing dart / When anger severs heart from yearning heart, / Yet gladly will he bear their pain who knows / How deeper far the hurt of silence goes.

  • The pain of silence makes love render / Her private grief in public verses.

    • Anna Akhmatova,
    • "You See Me Now No Longer Smiling," A White Bird's Flight ()
  • The language of her grief is silence. She has learned it well, its idioms, its nuances. Over the years, silence within her small body has grown large and powerful.

  • ... the easiest way to save face is to keep the lower half shut.

  • [On rudeness:] Falling silent should be cultivated, the way the woods fall silent in the snow. Messages you can't send any other way can be heard.