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[prov-erbz] /ˈprɒv ərbz/
(used with a singular verb) a book of the Bible, containing the sayings of sages.
Abbreviation: Prov.


[prov-erb] /ˈprɒv ərb/
a short popular saying, usually of unknown and ancient origin, that expresses effectively some commonplace truth or useful thought; adage; saw.
a wise saying or precept; a didactic sentence.
a person or thing that is commonly regarded as an embodiment or representation of some quality; byword.
Bible. a profound saying, maxim, or oracular utterance requiring interpretation.
verb (used with object)
to utter in the form of a proverb.
to make (something) the subject of a proverb.
to make a byword of.
Origin of proverb
1275-1325; Middle English proverbe < Middle French < Latin prōverbium adage, equivalent to prō- pro-1 + verb(um) word + -ium -ium
Related forms
proverblike, adjective
Can be confused
1. aphorism, apothegm. Proverb, maxim are terms for short, pithy sayings. A proverb is such a saying popularly known and repeated, usually expressing simply and concretely, though often metaphorically, a truth based on common sense or the practical experience of humankind: “A stitch in time saves nine.” A maxim is a brief statement of a general and practical truth, especially one that serves as a rule of conduct or a precept: “It is wise to risk no more than one can afford to lose.”.


[proh-vurb] /ˈproʊˌvɜrb/
noun, Grammar.
a word that can substitute for a verb or verb phrase, as do in They never attend board meetings, but we do regularly.
First recorded in 1905-10; by analogy with pronoun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for Proverbs
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • But there is no secret whatever about it, as the Proverbs of every nation abundantly testify.

    Self-Help Samuel Smiles
  • Xenophon's ideal wife was a good housekeeper—like her of the Proverbs.

    The Truth About Woman C. Gasquoine Hartley
  • Proverbs ought to be respected; for it is said that no phrase becomes a proverb until after a century's experience of its truth.

    The Secret Memoirs of Louis XV./XVI, Complete Madame du Hausset, an "Unknown English Girl" and the Princess Lamballe
  • Arulai said there was, and she expounded certain verses from the Book of Proverbs.

    Lotus Buds

    Amy Carmichael
  • Proverbs, like the sacred books of each nation, are the sanctuary of the intuitions.

    Essays, First Series Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • You swallowed every word Graves said, Caro, as if he was the whole book of Proverbs.

    Cap'n Warren's Wards Joseph C. Lincoln
British Dictionary definitions for Proverbs


(functioning as sing) a book of the Old Testament consisting of the proverbs of various Israelite sages including Solomon


a short, memorable, and often highly condensed saying embodying, esp with bold imagery, some commonplace fact or experience
a person or thing exemplary in respect of a characteristic: Antarctica is a proverb for extreme cold
(ecclesiast) a wise saying or admonition providing guidance
verb (transitive)
to utter or describe (something) in the form of a proverb
to make (something) a proverb
Word Origin
C14: via Old French from Latin prōverbium, from verbum word
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for Proverbs



c.1300, in boke of Prouerbyys, the Old Testament work, from Old French proverbe (12c.) and directly from Latin proverbium "a common saying, old adage, maxim," literally "words put forward," from pro- "forth" (see pro-) + verbum "word" (see verb). Used generally from late 14c. The Book of Proverbs in Old English was cwidboc, from cwide "speech, saying, proverb, homily," related to cwiddian "to talk, speak, say, discuss;" cwiddung "speech, saying, report."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Proverbs in Culture

proverb definition

A brief, memorable saying that expresses a truth or belief, such as “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” (See examples under “Proverbs.”)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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