“Not every quote you read on the Internet is true.” – Abraham Lincoln

The Internet loves inspirational quotes. You know the kind: a picture of some famous politician/writer/celebrity, and then right next to it, some words of wisdom, meant to inspire and embolden. Of course, it’s very easy to just stick a quote next to a person, without actually having done any research to see if that quote really is attributed correctly. 

There are all sorts of reasons a quote might be misattributed. Sometimes famous people take original quotes from others and then it is attributed to them; sometimes books mistakenly identify a quote from someone, giving people a false impression; sometimes, when we don’t know a quote, we just stick a famous name on there that sounds right (hi, Mark Twain). Regardless, here are ten commonly misattributed quotes, and the poor forgotten people who said them. 

Quote: “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”

Misattributed To: Joseph Stalin

Real Source: This quote was first attributed to Joseph Stalin in 1947 by a newspaper columnist named Leonard Lyons who claimed that Stalin had said this at a meeting when discussing the famine in Ukraine. However, no one knows where Lyons got this information, leading many to believe that it’s not true. Over the years, the quote has been attributed to several people, including a German newspaper, a French diplomat, and the novelist Erich Maria Remarque. It’s possible that it was Stalin said this, but because there’s never been any corroborating evidence found to prove it, it’s unlikely.

Quote: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Misattributed To: Albert Einstein

Real Source: This quote has been attributed to the novelist Rita Mae Brown; however, people aren’t quite sure who said this quote first. However, Albert Einstein was not the person who said it.

Quote: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

Misattributed To: Mahatma Gandhi

Real Source: This quote first appeared in a magazine in 1867… two years before Gandhi was born, meaning it was impossible the quote originated with him. The quote “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind,” is also often frequently attributed to Gandhi, but there is no proof he ever said it.

Quote: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Misattributed To: Voltaire

Real Source: The first appearance of this quote came from the 1906  book “The Friends of Voltaire,” by Evelyn Beatrice Hall. Hall wrote this quote to describe how Voltaire saw freedom of speech: however, he never actually said it.

Quote: “Well-behaved women seldom make history.”

Misattributed To: Marilyn Monroe

Real Source: The first appearance of this quote is from an academic paper in 1976 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. This quote has been misattributed to several people, Marilyn Monroe being the most common, however, the first appearance is attributed to Ulrich.

Quote: “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.”

Misattributed To: Mark Twain

Real Source: Mark Twain is one of the most quoted individuals in American history, which also means he’s one of the most misquoted people as well. Some people claim this was an Oscar Wilde quote; however, there have been versions of this quote being said since the 14th century.

Quote: “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

Misattributed To: Maya Angelou

Real Source: Maya Angelou said something like this, but she wasn’t the originator of the famous saying. She probably got this quote from Carl W. Buehner, a high level-official in the Mormon church. The quote was attributed to Buehner in 1971, 32 years before Angelou ever said anything like it. 

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

Misattributed To: Abraham Lincoln

Real Source: There’s no evidence that Abraham Lincoln ever uttered this famous phrase so often attributed to him; most people attribute the quote to a doctor named Edward J. Stieglitz, who coined the phrase to advertise a book of his about aging.

Quote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Misattributed To: Edmund Burke

Real Source: John Stuart Mill was the first person who was recorded saying a version of this quote in 1867. John F. Kennedy said this quote in one of speeches, but falsely attributed it to Edmund Burke. 

Quote: “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Misattributed To: Ralph Waldo Emerson

Real Source: There is no evidence that Emerson ever wrote this famous inspirational quote. In truth, the first reference to this is in a poem called “Wind-Wafted Wild Flowers,” by Muriel Strode, who is believed to be the originator of the quote.