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Origin of truism

First recorded in 1700–10; true + -ism
Related formstru·is·tic, tru·is·ti·cal, adjective
Can be confusedtruism truth (see confusables note at the current entry)

Synonyms for truism

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Confusables note

Contrary to what some people believe, the word truism is not a more elegant word for truth. While the word truth can occasionally be used to refer to a “truism,” since truisms are often true, the reverse—the use of truism to mean “truth”—is unwise. Truism stands for a certain kind of truth—a cliché, a platitude, something so self-evident that it is hardly worth mentioning. One can use it to accuse another writer or speaker of saying something so obvious or evident and trite that pointing it out is pointless. To say that a statement is a truism when you intend to compliment it as truthful, factual, even provable, will merely serve to confuse those who know that calling something a truism is not praise, but a criticism or insult.
Note, however, that truism is used in a technical sense in mathematics or philosophy for restating something that is already known from its terms or premises. Examples of such truisms include: “Men are not women” and “Since the circumference of a circle equals twice the radius multiplied by π (2π r ), it equals the diameter multiplied by π (π d ).” Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for truism

saying, aphorism, platitude, maxim, adage, proverb, motto, axiom, cliche

Examples from the Web for truism

Contemporary Examples of truism

Historical Examples of truism

British Dictionary definitions for truism


  1. an obvious truth; platitude
Derived Formstruistic, adjective

Word Origin for truism

C18: from true + -ism
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 truism

1708, from true + -ism; first attested in Swift.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper