How can I find a specific quotation?

There are many internet sites for quotations.  However, while it can be quite easy to find a quote, those sites often don't indicate exactly where the quote came from- and they are often wrong. If you find a quote repeated all over the internet attached to a famous person's name without any other information, it's probably misquoted, misattributed, or both.

The first thing a librarian usually does to try to identify a quotation is to put it into Google Books or HathiTrust (see below under Publicly Available Online).

This is how we search the full text of millions of books (and other textual materials) at once.
Experiment. If it's a long quote, choose a phrase and put it in quotations. Try it outside quotations. Choose fairly unusual keywords to search. Put in or leave out the name of the person you suspect to have said it. If the person it's attributed to wrote or spoke in another language, consider that translations can vary.


Below are some suggested places to search for complete citations.

Electronic at Harvard

A HarvardKey (available to current Harvard faculty, staff and students only) is needed for these links. Check your local library to see if you have access to any of these (they may recommend others).

Oxford Reference Online Premium Collection  For best results click Advanced Search, limit to Quotation
Literature Online (LION)


Publicly available online

Remember to evaluate your source. Some sites just repeat information found in other places rather than confirming it for themselves.  Allows you to search all Bartleby quote sources simultaneously, including Bartlett’s and Respectfully Quoted, a dictionary of quotes requested from the Congressional Research Service.
Google Books Advanced Book Search – surround the full quote with quotations marks, or specify author and then keywords
Other Digital Libraries These are similar to Google Books and you can search across the full text of millions of books. There is a lot of overlapping content, but there are some unique items and each of them searches a little differently so you may get different results. These are 3 of the largest:

Wikiquote is Wikipedia for quotes. As with Wikipedia, pay attention to cited sources. and Garson O'Toole's book, Hemingway Didn't Say That
Google Groups  Submit a quote to the collective wisdom of a quotations group to get more leads.


Unfortunately, the material may not exist online, or it may not be possible to find it (because the quote is not exact or has been misattributed for so long).

Quotations Dictionaries and other books in Print

Major print sources can be found in the Loker Reading Room at Widener, starting with call number RR 3021.1
Search HOLLIS or other catalogs for keywords such as women quotations dictionaries or politics quotations dictionaries.



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