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  1. an expression of a general truth or principle, especially an aphoristic or sententious one: the maxims of La Rochefoucauld.
  2. a principle or rule of conduct.

Origin of maxim

1400–50; late Middle English maximeMedieval Latin maxima (orig. in phrase maxima prōpositiō axiom, literally, greatest proposition), noun use of feminine of Latin maximus, superlative of magnus great; see much
Can be confusedadage aphorism apothegm axiom maxim proverb

Synonyms for maxim

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[mak-sim; for 4 also French mak-seem, Russian muh-ksyeem]
  1. Hiram Percy,1869–1936, U.S. inventor.
  2. his fatherSir Hiram Stevens,1840–1916, English inventor, born in the U.S.: inventor of the Maxim gun.
  3. Hudson,1853–1927, U.S. inventor and explosives expert (brother of Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim).
  4. a male given name, form of Maximilian. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for maxim


  1. a brief expression of a general truth, principle, or rule of conduct

Word Origin for maxim

C15: via French from Medieval Latin, from maxima, in the phrase maxima prōpositio basic axiom (literally: greatest proposition); see maximum


  1. Sir Hiram Stevens. 1840–1916, British inventor of the first automatic machine gun (1884), born in the US
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

Word Origin and History for maxim

"precept, principle," early 15c., from Middle French maxime, from Late Latin maxima, shortened from phrases such as maxima propositio, maxima sententarium "axiom," literally "greatest premise, greatest among propositions" (one which is general and absolute), from fem. of maximus "greatest" (see maximum).


single-barreled water-cooled machine gun, 1885, named for inventor, U.S.-born British engineer Sir Hiram S. Maxim (1840-1916).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper