Created in 1887 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes is perhaps the world’s most famous fictional detective. He possesses a brilliant mind and a talent for using it to solve crime.

The character’s wit and deduction skills have captured the hearts of generations of readers. Even now, he enjoys massive popularity, inspiring many modern adaptations and re-imaginings, but always present is his logical thought process and hunger for answers.

Best Sherlock Holmes Quotes from the Original Series

Sherlock Holmes illustration
A 1904 illustration of Sherlock Holmes by Sidney Paget

While famous Sherlock Holmes quotes originated from film or TV adaptations, the best ones are often from the original creator. Below are some of the best Sherlock Holmes quotes taken from Doyle’s canonical work.

“My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people do not know.”

The Adventures of the Blue Carbuncle

“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”

The Boscombe Valley Mystery

“Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell.”

The Adventure of the Copper Beeches

“How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”

The Sign of Four

“But it is better to learn wisdom late than never to learn it at all.”

The Man with the Twisted Lip

“The best way of successfully acting a part is to be it.”

The Adventure of the Dying Detective

“You see, but you do not observe.”

A Scandal In Bohemia

“A strange enigma is man.”

The Sign of Four

“My mind is like a racing engine, tearing itself to pieces because it is not connected up with the work for which it was built. Life is commonplace; the papers are sterile; audacity and romance seem to have passed forever from the criminal world. Can you ask me, then, whether I am ready to look into any new problem, however trivial it may prove?”

The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge

“I fear that if the matter is beyond humanity, it is certainly beyond me.”

The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot

“The game is afoot.”

The Adventure of Abbey Grange

“A man always finds it hard to realize that he may have finally lost a woman’s love, however badly he may have treated her.”

The Musgrave Ritual

“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent.”

A Case of Identity

“Work is the best antidote of sorrow, my dear Watson.”

The Adventure of the Empty House

It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgment.

A Study in Scarlet

Violence does, in truth, recoil upon the violent, and the schemer falls into the pit which he digs for another.

The Adventure of the Speckled Band

Any truth is better than indefinite doubt.

The Yellow Face

We balance probabilities and choose the most likely. It is the scientific use of the imagination.

The Hound of the Baskervilles 

What one man can invent another can discover.

The Adventure of the Dancing Men

Education never ends Watson. It is a series of lessons with the greatest for the last.

The Red Circle

Best Sherlock Holmes Quotes from the Movies and Series

Doyle’s work has spawned a multitude of reimaginings, adaptations, and imitations. Some of them fell flat, but others have become successful ventures. Below are some of the best quotes taken from TV and film.

My mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work. The sooner the better.

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

“You see… hidden within the unconscious is an insatiable desire for conflict. So you’re not fighting me… so much as you are the human condition. All I want is to own the bullets and the bandages. War, on an industrial scale, is inevitable. They’ll do it themselves, within a few years. All I have to do… is wait.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

“Dear God. What is it like in your funny little brains? It must be so boring.”

Sherlock BBC Series

In a world of locked rooms the man with the key is king. And honey, you should see me in a crown.”

Sherlock BBC Series

“A good detective knows that every task, every interaction, no matter how seemingly banal, has the potential to contain multitudes.”

Elementary CBS Series

“Exceptional children are often the product of unremarkable parents.”

Mr. Holmes (2015)

“I’m going to break you Holmes. I’m going to bring off right under your nose the most incredible crime of the century, and you’ll never suspect it until it’s too late. That will be the end of you Mr. Sherlock Holmes. And when I’ve beaten and ruined you then I can retire in peace.”

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)

“When you’re poor, no one wants to know you.”

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

“We’ve unmasked madmen, Watson, wielding scepters. Reason run riot. Justice howling at the moon.”

Murder by Decree (1979)

“There’s always a chance, Doctor, as long as one can think.”

The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

What Does Sherlock Always Say to Watson?

“Elementary, my dear Watson” is the most recognizable phrase attributed to Sherlock Holmes. However, this phrase never appeared in any of the canonical stories and novels.

Instead, the phrase was incorrectly assumed to be something Sherlock uttered since he often remarked that his deductions were “elementary.” He also often used the phrase “my dear Watson” in at least two-thirds of the original stories. The closest he comes to saying “Elementary, my dear Watson” is in The Adventure of the Crooked Man.

“Excellent!” I cried.

“Elementary,” said he.

Sherlock does say the phrase, “exactly, my dear Watson” three times in the official canon. The earliest that the misattributed phrase was used was in P. G. Wodehouse’s Psmith, Journalist which was in no way about Doyle or his detective creation. It was used again in The Return of Sherlock Holmes, the first-ever Sherlock Holmes sound film. It escalated from then on until it became what it is today: a non-canonical phrase widely attributed to the fictional detective.

Reading Sherlock Holmes

If you haven’t experienced any of Sherlock’s adventures yet, I suggest starting with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It’s a collection of short stories featuring the famous detective. While the novels are great, these shorts are easier to digest and still do a good job of introducing you to the detective.

It’s not necessary to read his adventures in order. Though some stories reference past cases, there’s not much connecting the stories, other than the principal characters. If you do decide to read Sherlock Holmes stories, I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!