(used with a singular verb) a book of the Bible, containing the sayings of sages. Abbreviation: Prov.




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 formsprov·erb·like, adjective
Can be confusedadage aphorism apothegm axiom maxim proverb

Synonyms for proverb

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.”



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.

Origin of pro-verb

First recorded in 1905–10; by analogy with pronoun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for proverbs

Contemporary Examples of proverbs

Historical Examples of proverbs

  • But there is no secret whatever about it, as the proverbs of every nation abundantly testify.


    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

British Dictionary definitions for proverbs



(functioning as singular) 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 characteristicAntarctica is a proverb for extreme cold
ecclesiast a wise saying or admonition providing guidance

verb (tr)

to utter or describe (something) in the form of a proverb
to make (something) a proverb

Word Origin for proverb

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

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

Culture definitions for proverbs


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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.