gno·​mic | \ ˈnō-mik How to pronounce gnomic (audio) \

Definition of gnomic

1 : characterized by aphorism gnomic utterances
2 : given to the composition of gnomic writing a gnomic poet

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Did You Know?

A gnome is an aphorism-that is, an observation or sentiment reduced to the form of a saying. Gnomes are sometimes couched in metaphorical or figurative language, they are often quite clever, and they are always concise. We borrowed the word gnome in the 16th century from the Greeks, who based their gnome on the verb gignōskein, meaning "to know." (That other gnome-the dwarf of folklore-comes from New Latin and is unrelated to "aphorism" meaning.) We began using gnomic, the adjective form of gnome, in the early 19th century. It describes a style of writing (or sometimes speech) characterized by pithy phrases, which are often terse to the point of mysteriousness.

Examples of gnomic in a Sentence

He made gnomic utterances concerning death.
Recent Examples on the Web Hammons, whose eight-and-a-half-by-eleven-inch drawing could be said to have precipitated both projects, has played a quiet and somewhat gnomic role in the first one’s realization. Calvin Tomkins, The New Yorker, "David Hammons Follows His Own Rules," 2 Dec. 2019 Both Hurt and Webb beautifully navigate the challenging rhythms of Stoppardian dialogue, which is an intricate blend of seeming non sequiturs, lightning-fast aperçus, throwaway jokes, and gnomic insights that threaten to make your head explode., "In a spirited ‘Rosencrantz & Guildenstern’ at the Huntington, doom without the gloom - The Boston Globe," 27 Sep. 2019 His heroic aphoristic arc takes us not from the chilly La Rochefoucauld to the witty Wilde but from the elliptical Pascal to the gnomic Nietzsche, both of whom encrypted their philosophies in brief bursts of memorable obscurity. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, "The Art of Aphorism," 15 July 2019 It is bookended by two mammoth works featuring a camouflage pattern—an apt motif for an artist who cultivated a facade of blank neutrality, parrying probing questions about his art and inspiration with gnomic sound bites. Brenda Cronin, WSJ, "Warhol Takes New York, Again," 26 Oct. 2018 This blending of gnomic pronouncements with macho intimations of violence—a little Heidegger, a little more Hunter S. Thompson—is the weakness in Neel’s thinking and in his prose. Jedediah Purdy, The New Republic, "The Remaking of Class," 27 June 2018 That is Thomson’s signature note: a mixture of excitement and rue wrapped up in a sweeping paradox that leapfrogs into the gnomic-philosophical realm. Tom Shone, New York Times, "David Thomson’s ‘Warner Bros,’ a History of the Studio and the Family," 31 Aug. 2017 The Return by quoting one of its more gnomic and portentous lines of dialogue, but in the works of David Lynch, words—and numbers, so many numbers!—are a halting, imperfect medium of communication. Laura Miller, Slate Magazine, "In Twin Peaks’ Finale, Dreams Have a Cost," 5 Sep. 2017 Mark Frost, who tethered the art-house director’s gnomic vision to the narrative imperatives of network television in the 1990s, has a much lighter touch on the reins this time around. Laura Miller, Slate Magazine, "The Twin Peaks reboot is not the fusion of arthouse and mainstream sensibilities that viewers might expect. It’s pure David Lynch—and it’s glorious.," 22 May 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'gnomic.' 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 gnomic

1784, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for gnomic

borrowed from Greek gnōmikós "dealing in maxims, didactic," from gnṓmē "maxim" + -ikos -ic entry 1 — more at gnome entry 1

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Time Traveler for gnomic

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The first known use of gnomic was in 1784

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Last Updated

16 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Gnomic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for gnomic


How to pronounce gnomic (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of gnomic

formal : said or written using few words that are difficult to understand

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