ad·​age | \ ˈa-dij How to pronounce adage (audio) \

Definition of adage

: a saying often in metaphorical form that typically embodies a common observation She reminded him of the adage: "A penny saved is a penny earned."

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Examples of adage in a Sentence

that old adage, “the early bird gets the worm”
Recent Examples on the Web In sum, victory was on the horizon, and as the adage goes, history is written by the victors. Dan Paget, Quartz Africa, "The Covid-19 pandemic is casting Tanzania’s Magufuli in the worst light, in an election year," 13 May 2020 Necessity is the mother of invention, the adage goes, and Newar set out to turn his own negative experience into Captain Experiences. Matt Wyatt,, "Website works like Airbnb for bucket-list fishing trips," 9 May 2020 And there’s an age-old adage: What is said at the shop, stays at the shop. NBC News, "Black barber shops and salons: Safe havens for cultural chats," 29 Apr. 2020 There’s an old adage that great subjects make a great photographer. Mark Rozzo, The New Yorker, "Dennis Hopper’s Quiet Vision of Nineteen-Sixties Hollywood," 22 Dec. 2019 There’s an old football adage: A team goes as its offensive line goes. Kyle Newman, The Denver Post, "Broncos look to spark dormant rushing attack in final two games, get Phillip Lindsay over 1,000 yard mark," 20 Dec. 2019 The old adage of an ounce of prevention and a pound of cure is particularly true right now. Mitch Albom, Detroit Free Press, "Mitch Albom: Coronavirus pandemic will show exactly what we're made of," 13 Mar. 2020 Contrary to the adage that everything’s better with bacon, this bread is quite good without it. oregonlive, "8 Super Bowl cornbread recipes to go with game-day chili," 29 Jan. 2020 The adage is that good things come in small packages. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Mount Miguel’s 129-pound receiver on pace to break yardage record," 2 Oct. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'adage.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of adage

1530, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for adage

borrowed from Middle French, borrowed from Latin adagiō, adagium, from ad- ad- + ag-, base of aiō, āiō "(I) say" (going back to *ag-i̯ō, going back to an Indo-European verb stem *h2eǵ-i̯e- "say") + -ium, deverbal noun suffix; akin to Greek ê "(s/he) spoke," án-ōga "(I) command," Armenian asem "(I) say," Tocharian B āks- "announce, proclaim"

Note: The Latin form is possibly adāgiō; the lack of vowel reduction in the second syllable is otherwise unexplained. Michiel de Vaan, Etymological Dictionary of Latin (Brill, 2008), believes that the base is not aiō, but rather adigō, "I drive/thrust/plunge into, force, impel." Semantically, this is not compelling, and does not in any case solve the problem of the second syllable. On the other hand, the lack of attestation for aiō with any prefixes aside from this noun is striking.

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Time Traveler for adage

Time Traveler

The first known use of adage was in 1530

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Last Updated

23 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Adage.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for adage


How to pronounce adage (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of adage

: an old and well-known saying that expresses a general truth


ad·​age | \ ˈa-dij How to pronounce adage (audio) \

Kids Definition of adage

: an old familiar saying : proverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on adage

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for adage

Spanish Central: Translation of adage

Nglish: Translation of adage for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about adage

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