Researching the Origin of a Quote

We have all seen the memes that our friends post on social media sites like Instagram or Facebook, it is a beautiful quote attributed to someone famous meant to provide inspiration.  The only problem with them is that they are more often than not attributed to the wrong person or the quote is wrong altogether.  We live in the information age yet we still get famous quotes wrong all the time and researching their origins is harder than it should be.  So how do you find out who really said that quote that you love so much?  Let’s look at how you can research famous quotes.


Some quotes don’t have any attribution at all so it can be nearly impossible to find an author or original source for them.  Then there is the other end of that situation where a quote has been attributed to everyone and their dog so it is almost impossible to determine who said it first.  The reality is that a many famous quotes are misquoted by a famous politician, public speaker or the media and then it is even harder to identify the source.  This happens with Shakespeare all the time as Elizabethan English is changed into more modern English.  Here are some famous misquotes we all get wrong.

Where to Begin

The first thing you need to do when it comes to researching a quote is to try and remember as much of it as you can, and the wording does matter.  Although today with the internet it is easier to search with a combination of keywords and the topic to find the origin of the quote.  You can also search by author if you are confident in who spoke the words initially.

Now if don’t have the author just the words, you can always type them directly into Google and see what pops up.  Google is pretty good at finding the original quote though they don’t always get the original author right.  Most of the internet is filled with information put there by people who get the attribution wrong.


Probably one of the most reliable sources on the internet to find the origin of a quote is WikiQuote.  It is an online database of quotes from famous people and you can find quotes in almost every language.  It links to the source of information, most often that is Wikipedia.  You can add quotes as well but then need to have their citation sourced.  It will also show you how the original quote has been misquoted and how they came to be.

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