Figure Name proverb
Source Silva Rhetoricae (; Macbeth (1876); De Mille (1882); Bullinger (1898); Johnson (1903) ("proverbs"); Kellog (1880) ("proverb")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms adage, apothegm, gnome, maxim, paroemia, sententia
Etymology None
Type Scheme
Linguistic Domain Semantic

1. One of several terms describing short, pithy sayings. Others include adage, apothegm, gnome, maxim, paroemia, and sententia. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. Proverbs must not be passed over in our enumeration- proverbs, the philosophy of the common peopIe: short, pithy, homely sayings, that embody the concentrated essence of the common people's wisdom. (Macbeth)

3. 223. PROVERB.
A proverb is the utterance of a thruth, derived from general experience, in a concise and striking form. (De Mille)

4. A proverb contains finely stated facts, not commands, and ends with a kind of hypothetical command. (Bullinger, 24)

5. Proverbs.—Proverbs and proverbial sayings would better be used sparingly, for the reason that usually they are repeated much too often. A continual use of ready-made phrases not only renders them trite and tiresome, but prevents the speaker from cultivating a power of original expression. When they are used, the writer or speaker should make sure that he quotes them intelligently and applies them aptly. Some of them have drifted into meaningless forms. (Johnson, 236)

6. PROVERBS are pithy and sententious sayings. They are packed with the wit and wisdom of those who coined them and of the generations which have used and approved them. Some of them can be fathered upon great authors, many con be traced to no parentage; but the children of some one or of no whom we can name, they have been adopted by all and belong to all and disclose "the interior history, the manners, the opinions, the beliefs, the customs of the people among whom they have had their course." Rolling down the stream of national life and smoothed and rounded by it, they are fit pebbles for use in any David's sling. Woe to the Goliath against whom they are skillfully hurled! (Kellog, 146)


1. A stitch in time saves nine. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. Singular to say, the Yorubas, an African tribe, that has no poetry, no rhyme, are rich in proverbs-a sure prognostic of an elevated future yet in store for them. Take a few specimens:
"The sword shows no respect for its maker."
" I almost killed the bird,said the fowler; but Almost never made a stew."
"It is only the water that is spilled; the calabash is not broken."
"He who waits for chance, will have to wait a year."
"A one-sided story is always right. Ear, listen to the other side."
"Though a man may miss many things, he never misses his mouth."
"The dawn comes twice to no man."
"He who marries a beauty, marries trouble."
"The rat said: I am not so angry with him who killed me, as with him who dashed me on the ground afterward."
"It is easy to cut up a dead elephant."
"He is a fool who can't lift an ant yet tries to lift an elephant."
"Covetousness is the mother of unsatisfied desires."
"Wherever a man goes to dwell, his character goes with him." (Macbeth)

3. This is sometimes done by alliteration: as-
"All is not gold that glitters."
"Penny wise, pound foolish." (De Mille)

3. Sometimes rhyme is employed: as-
"Many a slip 'twixt cup and lip."
"To-day be mine, to-morrow thine." (De Mille)

3. Antithesis is used very extensively:
"Out of sight, out of mind."
"Nothing venture, nothing have." (De Mille)

4. "For the horse a whip, for the ass a bridle, and for the fool's back a rod." (Bullinger, 24)

5. For instance, the expression "As handy as a pocket in a shirt" is heard frequently, as if it were a pretty bit of every-day humor. But it contains neither wit nor sense. The original form was "As handy as a pocket in a shroud," the grim irony of which we see at once. "The exception proves the rule" has been so utterly misunderstood and perverted that it is usually quoted" This is the exception that proves the rule." Richard Grant White has very clearly pointed out the inanity of this. An exception, so far as it goes, instead of proving a rule, disproves it. The true expression is, "The excepting proves the rule"—that is, the fact that a given case is spoken of or treated as an exception, implies an acknowledgment of the rule. The expression "The burden of proof" often conveys to the uninformed an idea the exact opposite of that, which is true. This would not happen if the Latin expression onus probandi were translated correctly. It is not the burden of proof; it is the burden, or task, of being obliged to prove. Some proverbial sayings that originally involved a quiet pun or a sparkle of wit appear to have lost it in the many thoughtless repetitions. Thus, the expression, "As plain as a pikestaff " was originally a play on the word "plain"—a pikestaff being plain in the sense of perfectly smooth, without ornament, while the application is to things that are plain in the sense of easily discernible, readily understood. Few persons are more tiresome, or more difficult to reason with, than one that has his mouth full of proverbs and repeats them on all occasions, with or without regard to their aptness. "As a thorn goeth up into the hand of a drunkard," says Solomon, "so is a parable in the mouth of fools." (Johnson, 236-237)

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Notes Note that "proverb," besides being synonymous with these other terms, also names one of the progymnasmata exercises, proverb. Unsure of 'type of'.
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Ioanna Malton
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes
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