[ mak-sim ]
/ ˈmæk sɪm /
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an expression of a general truth or principle, especially an aphoristic or sententious one: the maxims of La Rochefoucauld.
a principle or rule of conduct.
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Origin of maxim

First recorded in 1400–50; late Middle English maxime ultimately from Medieval Latin maxima (originally in the phrase maxima prōpositiō “axiom,” literally, “greatest proposition”), noun use of feminine of Latin maximus, superlative of magnus “great”; see much

synonym study for maxim

1. See proverb.


adage, aphorism, apothegm, axiom, maxim , proverb

Other definitions for maxim (2 of 2)

[ mak-sim; for 4 also French mak-seem, Russian muh-ksyeem ]
/ ˈmæk sɪm; for 4 also French makˈsim, Russian mʌˈksyim /

Hiram Percy, 1869–1936, U.S. inventor.
his father, Sir Hiram Stevens, 1840–1916, English inventor, born in the U.S.: inventor of the Maxim gun.
Hudson, 1853–1927, U.S. inventor and explosives expert (brother of Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim).
a male given name, form ofMaximilian.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What is a maxim?

A maxim is a principle or guiding rule.

A maxim is a rule, principle, or helpful guide that leads to a general truth, such as “Actions speak louder than words” and “Strive for greatness.”

Different fields of philosophy develop many rules or guiding principles based on the founder of that philosophy’s studies. These will often be called maxims and will be attributed to that founder, such as Confucious’s maxims, Marx’s maxims, and Voltaire’s maxims.

Maxim also describes a written or understood rule of conduct, as discussed within an organization. For example, a science lab may discuss a maxim of always keeping goggles on in certain areas of the lab.

Example: My aunt, who was a short woman, often quoted the maxim “good things come in small packages.”

Where does maxim come from?

The first records of the term maxim come from the 1400s. It ultimately comes from the Latin maximus, meaning “great.” The phrase maxima prōpositiō in Medieval Latin means “axiom” or “greatest proposition,” or in other words, “an overall guiding suggestion or rule.”

Maxim is also a given name used in some European nations. One of the most famous Maxims is Henry Stevens Maxim, an inventor who created the first automatic firearm, called the Maxim gun. Maxim can also be used as a nickname or alternate name for the first name Maximillian.

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How is maxim used in real life?

Many people are willing to freely share their maxims for living life, even if they don’t actually follow them.


Try using maxim!

Is maxim used correctly in the following sentence?

My maxim for living life is not to blindly follow other peoples’ maxims.

How to use maxim in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for maxim (1 of 2)

/ (ˈmæksɪm) /

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

British Dictionary definitions for maxim (2 of 2)

/ (ˈmæksɪm) /

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