the pen is mightier than the sword

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This phrasing due to Bulwer-Lytton, 1839.[1] The sentiment is traditional, and has many antecedents; see Wikipedia.[2][3][4]


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the pen is mightier than the sword

  1. (idiomatic, metonymically) More influence and power can be usurped by writing than by fighting.
    • 1982, Michael Schudson, The Power of News[3], Harvard University Press, →ISBN, page 142:
      If the pen is mightier than the sword in American history, it is more likely the pen of a novelist than the typewriter of a reporter — Harriet Beecher Stowe stimulating antislavery sentiment or Upton Sinclair enlisting citizens in outrage against the food-processing industry.
    • 2011, Qazi Nasir Uddin, Ph.D., The Other Side, Author House (→ISBN), page 108:
      If my teachers had not told me that the pen is mightier than the sword, if my parents had not told me that I have to respect books, I would not have developed that respect for knowledge.





  1. ^ Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1839) Richelieu; or, The conspiracy: a play (in English), page 40: “Beneath the rule of men entirely great, / The pen is mightier than the sword.”
  2. ^ Cicero (44 BCE), “I.lxxvii”, in De Officiis[1] (in Latin): “cēdant arma togae [arms yield to persuasion]”
  3. ^ Antonio de Guevara (1529), Thomas North, transl., Reloj de príncipes [The Diall of Princes]‎[2] (in Spanish), published 1557: “¡Cuánta diferencia vaya de mojar la péñola de la tinta a teñir la lanza en la sangre, y estar rodeados de libros o estar cargados de armas, de estudiar cómo cada uno ha de vivir o andar a saltear en la guerra para a su prójimo matar!”
  4. ^ William Shakespeare (1600), “Act 2, scene II”, in Hamlet (in English): “ [] many wearing rapiers are afraid of goosequills.”

Further reading[edit]