A collection of particularly memorable quotes from the Vorkosigan Saga.

Alys VorpatrilEdit

  • Dresses are weapons, my dear, in sufficiently skilled hands. ("Winterfair Gifts")

Aral VorkosiganEdit

  • I could take over the universe with this army if I could ever get all their weapons pointed in the same direction. (Shards of Honor)
  • Leadership is mostly a power over imagination, and never more so than in combat. The bravest man alone can only be an armed lunatic. The real strength lies in the ability to get others to do your work. (Shards of Honor)
  • The really unforgivable acts are committed by calm men in beautiful green silk rooms, who deal death wholesale, by the shipload, without lust, or anger, or desire, or any redeeming emotion to excuse them but cold fear of some pretended future. But the crimes they hope to prevent in that future are imaginary. The ones they commit in the present — they are real. (Shards of Honor)
  • Why shouldn't a madman dream of being sane? (Shards of Honor)
  • Exile, for no other motive than ease, would be the last defeat, with no seed of future victory in it. (Shards of Honor)
  • My home is not a place, it is people. (Barrayar)
  • One step at a time, I can walk around the world. (Barrayar)
  • Meaning is what you bring to things, not what you take from them. (The Warrior's Apprentice)
  • The Vor system at work [is] streams of experience, all flowing together, combining at last in a river of great power. Yours [Gregor's] is the final confluence. (The Warrior's Apprentice)
  • A weapon is a device for making your enemy change his mind. (The Vor Game)
  • Between justice and genocide [for Komarrans] there is, in the long run, no middle ground. (Brothers in Arms)
  • All true wealth is biological. (Mirror Dance)
  • Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself. (A Civil Campaign)
  • There is no more hollow feeling than to stand with your honor shattered at your feet while soaring public reputation wraps you in rewards. That's soul-destroying. The other way around is merely very, very irritating. (A Civil Campaign)
  • Guard your honor. Let your reputation fall where it will. And outlive the bastards. (A Civil Campaign)
  • Honesty is the only way with anyone, when you’ll be so close as to be living inside each other’s skins. (A Civil Campaign)
  • A higher honor must underlie ours... We can't ever obey unthinkingly. ("Winterfair Gifts")


  • The key of strategy... is not to choose a path to victory, but to choose so that all paths lead to a victory. (The Vor Game)

Cordelia VorkosiganEdit

  • Anything worth doing is worth doing well. (catch phrase)
  • How we imagine our civilization is in ourselves, when it’s really in our things. (Shards of Honor)
  • If it ever came down to exerting power by force, it would mean I'd already lost it. (Shards of Honor)
  • War is the failure of politics. (Shards of Honor; Miles recalls it in The Warrior's Apprentice)
  • In the physics of the heart, distance is relative; it's time that is absolute. (Shards of Honor)
  • A price is something you get. A cost is something you lose. (Shards of Honor)
  • Tests are a gift. And great tests are a great gift. To fail the test is a misfortune. But to refuse the test is to refuse the gift, and something worse, more irrevocable, than misfortune. (Shards of Honor, said to Aral about taking the Regency. Miles recalls a similar statement in The Warrior's Apprentice)
  • Experience suggests it doesn't matter so much how you got here, as what you do after you arrive. (Barrayar)
  • But pain... seems to me an insufficient reason not to embrace life. Being dead is quite painless. Pain, like time, is going to come on regardless. Question is, what glorious moments can you win from life in addition to the pain? (Barrayar)
  • It’s a ... transcendental act. Making life.... ‘By this act, I bring one death into the world.’ One birth, one death, and all the pain and acts of will between.... Our children change us ... whether they live or not. (Barrayar)
  • Suicidal glory is the luxury of the irresponsible. (Barrayar)
  • Check your assumptions. In fact, check your assumptions at the door. (Barrayar)
  • I don't want power. I just object to idiots having power over me. (Barrayar)
  • Children might or might not be a blessing, but to create them and then fail them was surely damnation. (Barrayar)
  • Any community's arm of force — military, police, security — needs people in it who can do necessary evil, and yet not be made evil by it. To do only the necessary and no more. To constantly question the assumptions, to stop the slide into atrocity. (Barrayar)
  • You can't choose between evil and evil, in the dark, by logic. You can only cling to some safety line of principle. (Barrayar)
  • It's... a transcendental act. Making life. I thought about that when I was carrying Miles. 'By this act, I bring one death into the world.' One birth, one death, and all the pain and acts of will between. (Barrayar)
  • You can say a lot in a little time, if you stick to words of one syllable. (Barrayar)
  • Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. (originally by Robert Frost; The Vor Game)
  • Egalitarians adjust to aristocracies just fine, as long as they get to be the aristocrats. (recalled by Miles Vorkosigan in Cetaganda)
  • Since no one is perfect, it follows that all great deeds have been accomplished out of imperfection. Yet they were accomplished, somehow, all the same. (Mirror Dance)
  • I don't confuse greatness with perfection. To be great anyhow is…the higher achievement. (Mirror Dance)
  • People are the only mirror we have to see ourselves in. The domain of all meaning. All virtue, all evil, are contained only in people. There is none in the universe at large. Solitary confinement is a punishment in every human culture. (Mirror Dance)
  • Mother Nature gives a sense of romance to young people, in place of prudence, to advance the species. It's a trick—that makes us grow. (Mirror Dance)
  • When you choose an action, you choose the consequences of that action. (recalled by Miles in Memory)
  • When you give each other everything, it becomes an even trade. Each wins all. (A Civil Campaign)
  • The debt you owe [your parents] gets collected by your children, who hand it down in turn. It's a sort of entailment. Or if you don't have children of the body, it's left as a debt to your common humanity. Or to your God, if you possess or are possessed by one. (A Civil Campaign)
  • All things done well for the glory of God. (A Civil Campaign)
  • [Trusting beyond reason is] how I get results beyond hope. (A Civil Campaign)
  • Everyone has their folding-point.... Their mortal vulnerability. Some just keep it in a nonstandard location. (A Civil Campaign)
  • When everything is a priority, nothing is. (Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen)

Duv GaleniEdit

  • How fortunate that science hasn't cracked human immortality. It's a great blessing that we can outlive old wars. And old warriors. (Brothers in Arms)
  • I'm just dazzled by the glittering tinsel of neo-fascism. (Brothers in Arms)

Ekaterin VorkosiganEdit

  • Marriage was a lottery, and you drew your lot in late adolescence or early adulthood at a point of maximum idiocy and confusion. (Komarr)
  • Cynicism did not seem nearly so impressively daring to her now as it had when she was twenty. (Komarr)
  • Nothing is more guaranteed to make one start acting like a child than to be treated like one. (A Civil Campaign)
  • Then time ran out—no. Time ran on. There was no end to time. But you come to the end of yourself, and time runs on, and leaves you. (A Civil Campaign)
  • Gardens were meant to be seen, smelled, walked through, grubbed in. A hundred objective measurements didn't sum the worth of a garden; only the delight of its users did that. (A Civil Campaign)
  • If power was an illusion, wasn't weakness necessarily one also? (A Civil Campaign)
  • Adulthood isn't an award they'll give you for being a good child. You can waste... years, trying to get someone to give that respect to you, as though it were a sort of promotion or raise in pay. If only you do enough, if only you are good enough. No. You have to just... take it. Give it to yourself, I suppose. Say, I'm sorry you feel like that and walk away. But that's hard. (A Civil Campaign)
  • I’d have worn them [poisoned pearl necklace] as a courtesy to your friend, I’ll wear them now as a defiance to our enemies. ("Winterfair Gifts")
  • If you make it plain you like people, it's hard for them to resist liking you back. (Diplomatic Immunity)
  • History does not so much repeat as echo, I suppose. (Cryoburn)

Elena Bothari-Jesek Edit

  • Actual combat . . . is a lot stupider than I'd imagined. If two groups can cooperate to the incredible extent it takes to meet in battle, why not put in a tenth that effort to talk? (The Vor Game)

Elli QuinnEdit

  • I'm not panicking, I'm watching you panic. It's more entertaining. (Brothers in Arms)
  • Aim high. You may still miss the target but at least you won’t shoot your foot off. (recalled by Miles Vorkosigan in Komarr)

Falco FerrellEdit

Georg VorthysEdit

  • All the geniuses I ever met were so just part of the time. To qualify, you only have to be great once, you know. Once when it matters. (Komarr)
  • There is a sad disconnectedness that overcomes a library when its owner is gone. (Komarr)

Gregor VorbarraEdit

  • Let's just… see what happens. (catch phrase, so well known that Ivan hears it coming and thinks Oh, no! He's going to say it! (A Civil Campaign))
  • The man has carried me since I was five years old. It's my turn. (Cryoburn)

Harra CsurikEdit

  • You go on. You just go on. There's nothing more to it, and there's no trick to make it easier. You just go on. (Memory)

Ivan Vorpatril Edit

Kareen KoudelkaEdit

  • Never... ever suggest they don't have to pay you. What they pay for, they'll value. What they get for free, they'll take for granted, and then demand as a right. Hold them up for all the market will bear. (A Civil Campaign)

Ky TungEdit

  • Your 'accidents,' I once noticed, have ways of entangling your enemies that are the green envy of mature and careful strategists. Far too consistent for chance, I concluded it had to be unconscious will. (to Miles Vorkosigan, The Vor Game)
  • All diplomacy is a continuation of war by other means. (originally by Carl von Clausewitz, Cetaganda)
  • On hemmed-in ground, use subterfuge. On desperate ground, fight. (originally by Sun Tzu, "Labyrinth")

Leo GrafEdit

  • There is nothing, nothing, nothing more important to me in the men and women I train than their absolute personal integrity. Whether you function as welders or inspectors, the laws of physics are implacable lie-detectors. You may fool men. You will never fool the metal. (Falling Free)
  • There was no limit to what one man might do, if he gave all, and held back nothing. (Falling Free)
  • If you ever have to make a choice between learning and inspiration, choose learning. It works more of the time. (Falling Free)
  • God's not here. Somebody's got to fill in. (Falling Free)
  • Just because we're adults doesn't automatically mean we can save you... (Falling Free)

Mark VorkosiganEdit

  • Half of what we call madness is just some poor slob dealing with pain by a strategy that annoys the people around him. (Mirror Dance)
  • Integrity is a disease, and you can only catch it from someone who has it. ("Winterfair Gifts")
  • You have to be careful who you let define your good. (A Civil Campaign)

Miles VorkosiganEdit

  • It's never too late while you're breathing. (The Warrior's Apprentice)

  • If you're trying to take a roomful of people by surprise, it's a lot easier to hit your targets if you don't yell going through the door. (The Warrior's Apprentice)

  • When the time came to leap in faith, whether you had your eyes open or closed or screamed all the way down or not made no practical difference. (The Warrior's Apprentice)

  • Heroes. They sprang up around him like weeds. A carrier, he was seemingly unable to catch the disease he spread. (The Warrior's Apprentice)

  • There will be grace and forgiveness enough, old dog, even for you. I pray you will spare me a drink from that cup, when it overflows for you. (The Warrior's Apprentice)

  • Hunting hawks did not belong in cages, no matter how much a man coveted their grace, no matter how golden the bars. They were far more beautiful soaring free. Heartbreakingly beautiful. (The Warrior's Apprentice)

  • If you want to catch something, running after it isn't always the best way. ("The Mountains of Mourning")

  • Those who do not know their history are doomed to keep stepping in it. (modification of statement by George Santayana, The Life of Reason Vol 1, originally "... doomed to repeat it" - The Vor Game)

  • War is not its own end, except in some catastrophic slide into absolute damnation. It's peace that's wanted. Some better peace than the one you started with. (The Vor Game)

  • I may be small, but I screw up big because I'm standing on the shoulders of GIANTS. (modification of statement by Isaac Newton, "If I have seen further, it is by standing..." (The Vor Game)
  • Hands are integral with brains, almost another lobe for intelligence. What one does not know through one's hands, one does not truly know. (Cetaganda)
  • In my experience, milady, we can never get back to exactly where we started, no matter how hard we try. (Cetaganda)
  • You can't give power away and keep it simultaneously. Except posthumously. (Cetaganda)
  • Luck is something you make for yourself, if you want it. (Cetaganda)
  • Never do yourself what you can con an expert into doing for you. (quoted by Elli Quinn in Ethan of Athos)
  • Don't wish to be normal... You'll only waste your precious time in futile frustration. Wish to be great! That at least you have a fighting chance for. Great at whatever you are. (advice to Taura in "Labyrinth")

  • It's not how much force you use. It's where you apply it. (a tactical lesson for Taura in "Labyrinth")

  • Biology is Destiny. ("The Borders of Infinity")

  • The wounded want power, nothing else; they think it will keep them from being hurt again. ("The Borders of Infinity")

  • Power is better than revenge. Power is a live thing, by which you reach out to grasp the future. Revenge is a dead thing, reaching out from the past to grasp you. ("The Borders of Infinity")

  • Men may move mountains, but ideas move men. ("The Borders of Infinity")

  • There is a subtle difference between being a prisoner and being a slave. I don't mistake either for being free. ("The Borders of Infinity")

  • When you can see the colors of the feathers, you'll also understand how you can expand your borders to infinity. ("The Borders of Infinity")

  • Never send interim reports. Only final ones. Interim reports tend to elicit orders. Which you must then either obey, or spend valuable time and energy evading, which you could be using to solve the problem. (Brothers in Arms)
  • People do get hypnotized by the hard choices. And stop looking for alternatives. (Brothers in Arms)
  • The will to be stupid is a very powerful force, but there are always alternatives. (Brothers in Arms)
  • The man who assumes everything is a lie is at least as mistaken as the one who assumes everything is true. (Brothers in Arms)
  • Total strangers trying to kill me make me feel right at home. (Brothers in Arms)
  • There is no safety. Only varying states of risk. And failure. (Brothers in Arms)
  • You are what you do. Choose again, and change. (Brothers in Arms)
  • When you can't get what you want, you take what you can get. (Brothers in Arms)
    • If you can't do what you want, do what you can. (Memory)
  • Like integrity, love of life was not a subject to be studied, it was a contagion to be caught. And you had to catch it from someone who had it. (Mirror Dance)
  • Do it for yourself. The universe will be around to collect its cut later. (to Lilly Durona Jr, on destiny and living - Mirror Dance)
  • Perfect preservation isn't life, it’s death. (Memory)
  • They may also serve who only stand and wait, but life is short enough already. (reference to similar quote by Milton - Memory)
  • Never argue with a pedant over nomenclature. It wastes your time and annoys the pedant. (Memory)
  • It was never what I wanted to buy that held my heart's hope. It was what I wanted to be. (Memory)
  • I am who I choose to be. I have always been what I chose, though not always what I pleased. (Memory)
  • Some prices are just too high, no matter how much you may want the prize. The one thing you can't trade for your heart's desire is your heart. (Memory)

  • Eloquence consists of persuading people of things they desperately want to believe. Demagoguery, I suppose, is eloquence sliding to some least moral energy level. (Komarr)

  • Some people grow into their dreams, instead of out of them. (Komarr)

  • We have advanced to new and surprising levels of bafflement. (Komarr)

  • Not that I haven't leaped up into the blinding light of competence now and then. It's sustaining the altitude that defeats me. (A Civil Campaign)
  • A tactical retreat is not a bad response to a surprise assault, you know. First you survive. Then you choose your own ground. Then you counterattack. (A Civil Campaign)
  • I smell diplomacy. (Diplomatic Immunity)
  • If the truth doesn't save us, what does that say about us? (Diplomatic Immunity)
  • The dead cannot cry out for justice; it is a duty of the living to do so for them. (Diplomatic Immunity)

  • Are we not all called on to yield our children back to the world, in the end? (Diplomatic Immunity)
  • Never interrupt your enemy while he is making a mistake. (recalled by Ivan in Captain Vorpatril's Alliance)
  • Where I come from, someone's head in a bag is generally considered the best revenge. (Cryoburn)
  • The world is made by the people who show up for the job. (Cryoburn)
  • What? What? What? (Miles learns what he missed while he was dead. Mirror Dance)


  • Permitting private judgments to turn [one's] duty in the smallest matter would be just like getting a little bit pregnant ... the consequences would very soon get beyond [one]. (quoted by Illyan in Shards of Honor)

Oliver JoleEdit

  • Although upon reflection, Jole wasn't sure of the advisabliilty of introducing a keen young officer to Vorkosigan notions of initiative. Metaphors about fighting fire with gasoline rose to his mind. (regarding suggesting to a young officer that she ask Cordelia for some of her own war stories) (Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen)

Piotr VorkosiganEdit

  • With all this manure around, there's got to be a pony someplace. (remembered by Cordelia in Barrayar)
  • We're Vorkosigans. If the charge isn't at least murder or treason, it's not worth rolling over in bed for... Treason, anyway.... And sometimes not even then. (remembered by Miles in Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen)

Professora VorthysEdit

  • Ah. I see. So the difference between a criminal and a hero is the order in which their vile crimes are committed. And justice comes with a sell-by date. In that case, you'd better hurry. You wouldn't want your heroism to spoil. (Komarr)

Simon IllyanEdit

  • Money, power, sex... and elephants. (on human desire, Memory)
  • Anything done twice on Barrayar is a tradition. (Memory)
  • The principle difference between heaven and hell is the company you keep there. (A Civil Campaign)


  • Every day is a gift. Me, I rip open the package and wolf it down on the spot. ("Winterfair Gifts")
  • You try to give away what you want yourself. (Memory, said to and about Miles, and remembered by Miles)

Tersa BoniEdit

  • An honor is not diminished for being shared. (Shards of Honor)
  • Don't be afraid. The dead cannot hurt you. They give you no pain, except that of seeing your own death in their faces. And one can face that, I find. (Shards of Honor)