What Are Nietzsche’s 4 Most Famous Quotes?

Friedrich Nietzsche made some of the most moving and profound statements about the modern world. Here are a handful of the best.

Sep 2, 2023By Luke Dunne, BA Philosophy & Theology
what are nietzsche most famous quotes


German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is one of the most significant philosophers of the 19th century. He wrote about a huge range of topics, including truth, morality, history, cultural aesthetics and language. As such, excerpts of his published works have become well-known sayings that have survived throughout the centuries. Here are just a handful of the most memorable and profound, and the meanings they carry with them.


1. “God Is Dead, and We Have Killed Him.”

The Crucifixion with the Virgin and Saint John, Hendrick ter Bruggen, c.1624-5, via The Met
The Crucifixion with the Virgin and Saint John, Hendrick ter Bruggen, c.1624-5, via The Met


One of Friedrich Nietzsche’s most famous quotes concerns religion and the development of a secular society in Europe. “God is dead, and we have killed him,” is one of Friedrich Nietzsche’s most provocative claims. He wrote it in the book Thus Spoke Zarathustra, which is an eccentric and difficult work.


Nietzsche intended the quote to offer an assessment of the changes going on in European society at the time. Europe was experiencing a cultural shift away from traditional religious beliefs, particularly those rooted in Christianity. Science, reason, and secularism were gaining prominence, and people were questioning the validity of religious dogmas and metaphysical claims. Nietzsche observed that the traditional religious worldview, which had long served as a foundation for moral values and meaning, was losing its influence in the modern world.


When Nietzsche claims “God is dead,” he does not mean a literal death of a divine being. Instead, this saying symbolizes the collapse of the traditional religious framework in the consciousness of the modern individual and the wider society.


Get the latest articles delivered to your inbox

Sign up to our Free Weekly Newsletter


2. “And Those Who Were Seen Dancing Were Thought to Be Insane…”

Statue of Friedrich Nietzsche in Saale, via Travelwriticus
Statue of Friedrich Nietzsche in Saale, via Travelwriticus


“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music,” is a quote which comes from The Gay Science, one of Nietzsche’s most famous works. The science in question here is poetry. The phrase which The Gay Science takes as its title refers to an old Provencal expression, which Nietzsche references explicitly. Here, poetry is taken as an ethical way of being. The quote we are addressing here extends the metaphor of poetry into a way of living more generally.


To be more specific, this quote suggests that some people, due to their limited perspectives or adherence to societal norms, might not be able to comprehend the profound beauty and authenticity of those who live life passionately and authentically.


Nietzsche argues that those who dance to their own music have embraced their inner passions and desires to the fullest extent. Although they may be misunderstood or judged by others who lack the ability to perceive the depth and beauty of such individuality, Nietzsche nonetheless defends this way of living thoroughly.



3. “To Live Is to Suffer, to Survive Is to Find Some Meaning in the Suffering.”

A photograph of Nietzsche in profile, 1882, via Pixabay
A photograph of Nietzsche in profile, 1882, via Pixabay


This quote has two parts, and makes two claims about the nature of life in general. On the one hand, it encapsulates the reality that suffering is an inherent and inevitable part of human existence. In other words, it asks us not to attempt to escape from suffering. It acknowledges that life is not free from pain, hardships, and challenges, and asserts that no life could ever be immune from these things. Often, we think that a good life is one in which we minimize suffering. However true this may be, Nietzsche wants us to recognize that we all encounter moments of suffering and adversity throughout our lives, and that it is delusional to think we could avoid this.


The second part of the quote consoles us that, although suffering is quite literally unavoidable, that does not simply mean that our lives are poorer for that. Indeed, in light of the inevitability of suffering, Nietzsche counsels that the meaning of our lives us to be found in how we respond to it.


4. “That Which Does Not Kill Us Makes Us Stronger.”

Still Life With a Skull and Writing Quill, Pieter Clasz, 1628, via The Met
Still Life With a Skull and Writing Quill, Pieter Clasz, 1628, via The Met


In a similar vein to the previous quote, Nietzsche now goes even further in claiming that survival is not only the means by which we can find purpose in our lives, but that survival is always a strength. In other words, our ability to withstand the suffering which is an inevitable part of life is not simply a question of finding meaning in it. Rather, our ability to withstand suffering is developed by prior suffering. Life is all about learning how to evolve our survival strategies, not to shirk our responsibilities and avoid painful inevitabilities.


The quote “that which does not kill us makes us stronger,” encapsulates Nietzsche’s view that the best kind of life is one which faces realities head on. It also expresses his belief that the best kind of individual is one who is resilient in spite of adversity.

Author Image

By Luke DunneBA Philosophy & TheologyLuke is a graduate of the University of Oxford's departments of Philosophy and Theology, his main interests include the history of philosophy, the metaphysics of mind, and social theory.