Ars longa,
vita brevis,
occasio praeceps,
experimentum periculosum,
iudicium difficile.

This a Latin translation of an aphorism by Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates. In this commonly found Latin translation, the first two statements have been switched from the Greek original.

The full text is often rendered in English as:
[The] art is long,
life is short,
opportunity fleeting,
experiment dangerous,
judgment difficult.

The most common and significant caveat in this translation is that "art" (Latin: ars, Ancient Greek: τέχνη (techne)) is interpreted as "technique, craft" (as in The Art of War), not "fine art", Hippocrates being a doctor and this being the start of a medical text. The following line: "The physician must not only be prepared to do what is right himself, but also to make the patient, the attendants, and externals cooperate," makes the medical context more clear.

The original Greek from Hippocrates' work 'Aphorisms (sect. I, no. 1)' is:
Ὁ βίος βραχύς,
ἡ δὲ τέχνη μακρή,
ὁ δὲ καιρὸς ὀξύς,
ἡ δὲ πεῖρα σφαλερή,
ἡ δὲ κρίσις χαλεπή.

and that translates as:
Life is short,
[the] art long,
opportunity fleeting,
experiment fallible,
judgment difficult.

Enough! If you want more on this then I refer you to the Wikipedia page where much of this text came from....


Well the German writer used the quotation in his epic work 'Faust' and also in 'Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship'. It may be taken as measure of Goethe's fame that this quotation is often incorrectly attributed to him. I'm sure that he didn't ask or expect later commentators to do that.

Whatever it's origin and context. I can relate to the words and I'll stick by their sentiment.

Most of the text on this page is adapted from Wikipedia articles

Hippocrates of Kos, (ca. 460 BC – ca. 377 BC) was an ancient Greek physician of the Age of Pericles (The Golden Age), and is considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine. He is often referred to as the father of Western medicine in recognition of his lasting contributions to the field revolutionizing medicine in ancient Greece and establishing it as a distinct discipline.

Hippocrates is commonly portrayed as the paragon of the ancient physician. In particular, he is credited with greatly advancing the systematic study of clinical medicine and prescribing practices for physicians through the Hippocratic Oath, Corpus and other works.


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, (1749 – 1832) was a German writer and polymath. He is often considered the supreme genius of modern German literature.

His works span the fields of poetry, drama, literature, philosophy, and science. His 'Faust' has been called the greatest long poem of modern European literature.

Goethe's influence spread across Europe, and for the next century his works were a major source of inspiration in music, drama, poetry and philosophy.