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 Her life is testimony to a play on an old adage: behind every strong woman, there is a group of strong women who have supported, nurtured and prepared her for success. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Someone San Diego Should Know: Yahairah Aristy," 15 Apr. 2021 The old adage, Get up, Dress up, Show up, can’t be emphasized enough. Joseph Deacetis, Forbes, "Torino Belts: Swing Into Fresh Style For 2021," 8 Apr. 2021 One golf adage holds that the Masters doesn't begin until the back nine on Sunday. Star Tribune, "So-called favorites stray early at the Masters," 8 Apr. 2021 Their next statements may come in the form of actions -- following the old adage that actions speak louder than words. Brian Stelter, CNN, "Seven media lessons from Harry and Meghan's interview with Oprah," 8 Mar. 2021 Investors like to cite the adage that markets are forward-looking. Akane Otani, WSJ, "Covid-19 Crashed the Stock Market a Year Ago. Here Are Some Lessons Learned.," 7 Mar. 2021 The adage about following the money serves us well here. Steve Lopez Columnist, Los Angeles Times, "Column: This desalination plan stinks all the way from Orange County to Gov. Newsom’s office," 6 Mar. 2021 Despite challenges brought on by Covid-19, the adage that employees will work harder when they are invested in the company is still so relevant today. Simon S. Mass, Forbes, "How To Prevent Toxic Behavior In The Workplace," 5 Apr. 2021 As the adage goes, art is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it. Kyle Chayka, The New Yorker, "How Beeple Crashed the Art World," 22 Mar. 2021

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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Last Updated

28 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Adage.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for adage



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

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

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