200 Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes

Get behind the basis of Transcendentalism and bright romanticism writing through these top 200 Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes!

Dubbed as the ‘Sage of Concord’ and a literary genius even at a young age, Ralph Waldo Emerson discussed his views on individualism and personal development by leaving his mark through his writings and his career as a lecturer.

In today’s collection, we’re covering his most famous quotes on contentment, achievements, life, love, and nature.

Check out the full list below.

And make sure to read these Joseph Campbell quotes and George Bernard Shaw quotes.

Best Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - Make the most of yourself for that is all there is of you.

1. “Make the most of yourself for that is all there is of you.”

2. “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

3. “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life—that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”

4. “Beware what you set your heart upon, for it surely shall be yours.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - I like the silent church before the service begins.

5. “I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.”

6. “A man is what he thinks about all day long.”

7. “A man must consider what a rich realm he abdicates when he becomes a conformist.”

8. “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

9. “Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - Nothing is more simple than greatness; indeed, to be simple is to be great.

10. “Nothing is more simple than greatness; indeed, to be simple is to be great.”

11. “Speak the truth, and all nature and all spirits help you with unexpected furtherance.”

12. “Solitude, the safeguard of mediocrity, is to genius the stern friend.”

13. “Sometimes, a scream is better than a thesis.”

14. “Good luck is another name for tenacity of purpose.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - Go forward and make your dreams come true.

15. “Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.”

16. “If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.”

17. “Every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.”

18. “Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.”

19. “Do what is assigned to you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes on Thought, Intelligence, and the Mind

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - Thought is the blossom; language the bud.

20. “Thought is the blossom; language the bud; action the fruit behind it.”

21. “The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.”

22. “Better to know a few things which are good and necessary, than many things which are useless and mediocre.”

23. “Adopt the pace of nature—her secret is patience.”

24. “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - Imitation is suicide.

25. “Imitation is suicide.”

26. “Truth is our element.”

27. “Blame is safer than praise.”

28. “Genius is religious.”

29. “Science does not know its debt to imagination.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - The wise, through excess of wisdom, are made a fool.

30. “The wise, through excess of wisdom, are made a fool.”

31. “Thought is the seed of action.”

32. “Man needs no library, for he has not done thinking; no church, for he is himself a prophet; no statute book, for he has the lawgiver; no money, for he is value itself; no road, for he is at home where he is.”

33. “The eyes of men are set in his forehead, not in his hindhead. Man hopes. Genius creates.”

34. “No facts are to me sacred; none are profane; I simply experiment, an endless seeker with no past at my back.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - Who you are speaks so loudly I can't hear what you're saying.

35. “Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.”

36. “Next to the originator of a good sentence is the first quoter of it.”

37. “By necessity, by proclivity, and by delight, we all quote.”

38. “The dull pray; the geniuses are light mockers.”

39. “Every burned book enlightens the world.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - Violence is not power, but the absence of power.

40. “Violence is not power, but the absence of power.”

41. “Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes.”

42. “No man thoroughly understands a truth until he has contended against it, so no man has a thorough acquaintance with the hindrances or talents of men, until he has suffered from the one, and seen the triumph of the other over his own want of the same.”

43. “He who has put forth his total strength in fit actions, has the richest return of wisdom.”

44. “For every grain of wit, there is a grain of folly.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.

45. “The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.”

46. “Accept the place the divine providence has found for you—the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have always done so.”

47. “A complete man should need no auxiliaries to his personal presence.”

48. “Discontent is the want of self-reliance—it is infirmity of will.”

49. “An original sentence, a step forward, is worth more than all the censures.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes on Contentment and Life

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - The first wealth is health.

50. “The first wealth is health.”

51. “He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.”

52. “Always, always, always, always, always do what you are afraid to do. Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain.”

53. “Life is a succession of lessons, which must be lived to be understood.”

54. “Life is our dictionary.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - Life is progress, and not a station.

55. “Life is progress, and not a station.”

56. “Write in your heart that every day is the best day of the year.”

57. “There is something which you can do better than another. Listen to the inward voice and bravely obey that. Do the things at which you are great, not what you were never made for.”

58. “Even in the mud and scum of things, something always, always sings.”

59. “We do what we must, and call it by the best names we can.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - Man of large affairs, an inventor, a statesman, an orator, a poet, a painter, - a you talk sincerely with him, considers his work, however much admired, as far short of what it should be.

60. “Every really able man, in whatever direction he works,—a man of large affairs, an inventor, a statesman, an orator, a poet, a painter,—if you talk sincerely with him, considers his work, however much admired, as far short of what it should be.”

61. “People only see what they are prepared to see.”

62. “The reality is more excellent than the report.”

63. “Money often costs too much.”

64. “I chide society, I embrace solitude, and yet I am not so ungrateful as not to see the wise, the lovely, and the noble-minded, as from time to time they pass my gate.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - Can anybody remember when the times were not hard and money not scarce?

65. “Can anybody remember when the times were not hard and money not scarce?”

66. “A cynic can chill and dishearten with a single word.”

67. “Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning, and under every deep a lower deep opens.”

68. “For what avail the plough or sail, or land or life, if freedom fails?”

69. “The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - Every excess causes a defect; every defect, an excess.

70. “Every excess causes a defect; every defect an excess. Every sweet has its sour; every evil, its good.”

71. “We are always getting ready to live but never living.”

72. “I no longer wish to meet a good I do not earn, for example, to find a pot of buried gold, knowing that it brings with it new burdens.”

73. “I do not wish for more external goods, neither possessions, nor honors, nor powers, nor persons. The gain is apparent; the tax is certain.”

74. “Explore, and explore, and explore. Be neither chided nor flattered out of your position of perpetual inquiry. Neither dogmatise yourself, nor accept another’s dogmatism. Why should you renounce your right to traverse the star-lit deserts of truth, for the premature comforts of an acre, house, and barn? Truth also has its roof, bed, and board.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - Make yourself necessary to the world, and mankind will give you bread.

75. “Make yourself necessary to the world, and mankind will give you bread.”

76. “But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future.”

77. “All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.”

78. “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

79. “There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes on Success and Achievement

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - Great men exist so that there may be greater men.

80. “Great men exist so that there may be greater men.”

81. “Without ambition, one starts nothing. Without work, one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.”

82. “Great men are those who see that spirituality is stronger than any material force—that thoughts rule the world.”

83. “Our strength grows out of our weakness.”

84. “A great man is always willing to be little.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.

85. “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

86. “The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.”

87. “Each man has his own vocation; his talent is his call. There is one direction in which all space is open to him.”

88. “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could.”

89. “To be great is to be misunderstood.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - The invariable mark of a dream is to see it come true.

90. “The invariable mark of a dream is to see it come true.”

91. “When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your objective.”

92. “It will never make any difference to a hero what the laws are. His greatness will shine and accomplish itself unto the end, whether they second him or not.”

93. “Be as beneficent as the sun or the sea, but if your rights as a rational being are trenched on, die on the first inch of your territory.”

94. “Do not believe that possibly, you can escape the reward of your action.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - Shall we then judge a country by the majority, or by the minority?

95. “Shall we then judge a country by the majority, or by the minority? By the minority, surely.”

96. “The best lightning rod for your protection is your own spine.”

97. “Be not the slave of your own past—plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far, so you shall come back with new self-respect, with new power, and with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.”

98. “Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting some on yourself.”

99. “Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.

100. “He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.”

101. “Don’t waste life in doubts and fears. Spend yourself on the work before you, well assured that the right performance of this hour’s duties will be the best preparation for the hours and ages that will follow it.”

102. “Fear is an instructor of great sagacity, and the herald of all revolutions.”

103. “What a new face courage puts on everything!”

104. “Great men, great nations, have not been boasters and buffoons, but perceivers of the terror of life, and have manned themselves to face it.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - Whatever limits us, we call fate.

105. “Whatever limits us, we call fate.”

106. “That what we seek we shall find; what we flee from flees from us.”

107. “What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.”

108. “Action is with the scholar subordinate, but it is essential. Without it, he is not yet a man. Without it, thought can never ripen into truth.”

109. “The characteristic of a genuine heroism is its persistence.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes on Self-Identity, Goals, and Personality

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.

110. “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”

111. “Trust thyself—every heart vibrates to that iron string.”

112. “The soul actively sees absolute truth, and utters truth, or creates.”

113. “Be silly. Be honest. Be kind.”

114. “Every artist was first an amateur.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - The one prudence in life is concentration.

115. “The one prudence in life is concentration.”

116. “Valor consists in the power of self recovery.”

117. “Our faith comes in moments; our vice is habitual.”

118. “Do the thing and you will have the power.”

119. “Be yourself; no base imitator of another, but your best self.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - A hero is no braver than an ordinary man.

120. “A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.”

121. “Insist on yourself; never imitate.”

122. “The one thing which we seek with insatiable desire is to forget ourselves, to be surprised out of our propriety, to lose our sempiternal memory, and to do something without knowing how or why; in short, to draw a new circle.”

123. “Every genuine work of art has as much reason for being as the earth and the sun.”

124. “The reason why the world lacks unity, and lies broken and in heaps is because man is disunited with himself.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine.

125. “Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine.”

126. “Everything in the universe goes by indirection. There are no straight lines.”

127. “We aim above the mark to hit the mark.”

128. “People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.”

129. “Every actual state is corrupt. Good men must not obey laws too well.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - Every man in his lifetime needs to thank his faults.

130. “Every man in his lifetime needs to thank his faults.”

131. “Self-trust is the first secret of success.”

132. “Self-command is the main elegance.”

133. “None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.”

134. “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions.

135. “Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing.”

136. “We wish to be self-sustained. We do not quite forgive a giver. The hand that feeds us is in some danger of being bitten.”

137. “Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.”

138. “To believe your own thoughts, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men—that is genius.”

139. “We only half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes on Hope, Happiness, and Inspiration

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - We judge man's wisdom by his hope.

140. “We judge man’s wisdom by his hope.”

141. “We walk alone in the world. Friends, such as we desire, are dreams and fables.”

142. “Wherever a man comes, there comes revolution. The old is for slaves.”

143. “You shall have joy, or you shall have power, said God; you shall not have both.”

144. “I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends—the old and the new.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - The years teach much which the days never know.

145. “The years teach much which the days never know.”

146. “Hitch your wagon to a star.”

147. “Sprinkle joy.”

148. “Live well, learn plenty, laugh often, love much.”

149. “A man is a god in ruins.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, faith looks up.

150. “Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, faith looks up.”

151. “This world belongs to the energetic.”

152. “Tomorrow is a new day. Begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense.”

153. “This new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays.”

154. “The way of life is wonderful. It is by abandonment. The great moments of history are the facilities of performance through the strength of ideas, as the works of genius and religion.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success.

155. “Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success.”

156. “Each of us sees in others what we carry in our own hearts.”

157. “The eyes indicate the antiquity of the soul.”

158. “Only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.”

159. “For everything you have missed, you have gained something else; and for everything you gain, you lose something else.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - The meaning of good and bad, of better and worse, is simply helping or hurting.

160. “The meaning of good and bad, of better and worse, is simply helping or hurting.”

161. “To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.”

162. “To fill the hour—that is happiness.”

163. “Happy is the hearing man; unhappy is the speaking man.”

164. “You cannot do kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - Life is a train of moods like a string of beads; and as we pass through them.

165. “Life is a train of moods like a string of beads; and as we pass through them, they prove to be many colored lenses, which paint the world their aint the world their own hue, and each shows us only what lies in its own focus.”

166. “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s life in your years.”

167. “All the good of nature is the soul’s, and may be had, if paid for in nature’s lawful coin, that is, by labor which the heart and the head allow.”

168. “He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.”

169. “What your heart thinks is great, is great. The soul’s emphasis is always right.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes on Love, Peace, and Nature

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - Love and you shall be loved.

170. “Love and you shall be loved.”

171. “He who is in love is wise and is becoming wiser, sees newly every time he looks at the object beloved, drawing from it with his eyes and his mind those virtues which it possesses.”

172. “There can never be deep peace between two spirits, never mutual respect until, in their dialogue, each stands for the whole world.”

173. “We must be our own before we can be another’s.”

174. “Truth is handsomer than the affectation of love.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.

175. “Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.”

176. “The least defect of self-possession vitiates, in my judgment, the entire relation.”

177. “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”

178. “The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship.”

179. “Without a rich heart, wealth is an ugly beggar.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - All mankind loves a lover.

180. “All mankind loves a lover.”

181. “Nature never became a toy to a wise spirit. The flowers, the animals, the mountains, reflected the wisdom of his best hour, as much as they had delighted the simplicity of his childhood.”

182. “Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection.”

183. “There is a property in the horizon which no man has but he whose eye can integrate all the parts, that is, the poet.”

184. “Is not marriage an open question, when it is alleged, from the beginning of the world, that such as are in the institution wish to get out, and such as are out wish to get in?”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - Nature is a mutable cloud which is always and never the same.

185. “Nature is a mutable cloud which is always and never the same.”

186. “The love that you withhold is the pain that you carry.”

187. “Don’t choose the better person, choose the person who makes a better you.”

188. “I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be happier. If you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should.”

189. “Make yourself necessary to somebody. Do not make life hard for anyone.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - The real and lasting victories are those of peace and not of war.

190. “The real and lasting victories are those of peace and not of war.”

191. “There can be no excess to love, none to knowledge, none to beauty, when these attributes are considered in the purest sense.”

192. “The only gift is a portion of thyself.”

193. “Everything in nature contains all the power of nature. Everything is made of one hidden stuff.”

194. “If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown?”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child.

195. “The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child.”

196. “Nature hates monopolies and exceptions.”

197. “Every sunset brings the promise of a new dawn.”

198. “The world globes itself in a drop of dew.”

199. “It is one light which beams out of a thousand stars. It is one soul which animates all men.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote - The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.

200. “The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.”

What Essential Life Lessons Did You Gather From This Collection of Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes?

Born and based in Boston, Ralph Waldo Emerson was a writer, lecturer, and poet who focused on Transcendentalist thinking. He was an intelligent man with a deep, but witty humor. His writings and lectures give us all so much to think about even to this day. And above all the themes and values in his works, he put emphasis the most on having courage, finding peace, and recognizing the power of the individual. He taught us to live life to the fullest and to stop waiting and letting opportunities pass by while waiting for ‘the right one.’ Because there will never be a right one—everything is what we make of it. So, let’s put in work and effort to live every day of our lives to the fullest.

What do you think of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s ideals? Were you inspired to live everyday as if it were your last? We hope you can share your thoughts with us by entering them in the comments section below.

Amy Finn

Hi. I'm Amy, the founder of this blog. I love quotes and enjoy sharing the best ones with you.

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