I've come across the phrase "So many men, so many minds".

Apparently, the full quote is from Leo Tolstoy, and is "If so many men, so many minds, certainly so many hearts, so many kinds of love."

What does the quote mean?

I'm interested in both the original meaning, and also how it's used nowadays, if the two differ.


4 Answers 4


Apparently, the full quote is from Leo Tolstoy, and is "If so many men, so many minds, certainly so many hearts, so many kinds of love."

The original saying/proverb if from Terentius (Terence), and was made popular by Cicero: "quot/tot capita/ homines, tot sententiae" = "there are as many opinions as there are men".see here, and its meaning hasn't changed: every man is unique and has individual judgement/ideas/opinions.

Tolstoj extented it to the heart: every man has a unique way of loving.

This classical saying is not used a lot, and if it is quoted is quoted in Latin. It's so 'cool'. The italics indicate the most popular version of the saying.

  • wow amazing. who knew?
    – Fattie
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 12:13

If I read the whole sentence

If so many men, so many minds, certainly so many hearts, so many kinds of love.

I read it as

If there are 20 men, there are as many minds, certainly as many hearts, as many kinds of love.

In other words, everybody is different, no two men are the same, in mind, in heart, and certainly in kinds of love.

(The 20 is just an example; you have as many minds as you have men)

The shortened expression "so many men, so many minds" means that you have as many minds (or opinions) as you have people. In other words, everybody has his own mind, don't assume people will think like others.

A variation on that theme, ascribed to Clint Eastwood (as Dirty Harry):

Opinions are like assholes; everybody has one.

That version is probably in more common use. I don't think that "so many men, so many minds" is a common expression, and I doubt many people will recognize the quote. It is a nice aphorism though.

  • All true and nicely explained. But the overwhelming point to explain to the OP is that it is not a common phrase. It's not a colloquialism, common phrase, or anything else.
    – Fattie
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 11:53
  • It's a (shortened) quote, used as an aphorism. I think the Dirty Harry version is certainly more commonly used, indeed.
    – oerkelens
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 11:55
  • which dirty harry saying, buddy? i dunno it!
    – Fattie
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 12:13

Possibly harks back to the Latin phrase quot homines tot sententiæ. Though there seem to be a few variants around too.

Phormio, by Terence (161 BC), line 454
quot homines tot sententiae: suo’ quoique mos
as many men, so many minds: to every one his own way

It seems to have some kind of life as a phrase. Here it is a 1918 Australian advertisement for dairy machinery: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/31643933 I'm not sure the target demographic would be hip to a Tolstoy reference.

"So many Men, so many Minds, but all are agreed on the 'Alfa Laval' Cream Separator." The self-evident fact which stands out most prominently in the Dairying Industry, not only throughout the Commonwealth, but throughout the world, is that in every place where a cow is milked for profit, the "Alfa-Laval" Cream Separator is in almost general use.

Indeed, this book from 1811, says "So many Men, so many Minds" is an old saying.


Skipping past the questionable latin basis and interpretations, i shall get to the point. It highlights the large variety of individuality and freewill, in comparison to the structural or systematic 'built in' beliefs. Although not discussed and with reference in current society, 'of mice and men' (john steinbeck, i think) wote a novel based on this very statement/phrase. More recently, a creation of further alteration was put into film. - 'the green mile'. Unfortunately , these teachings are somewhat , GONE.

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