max·​im | \ ˈmak-səm How to pronounce maxim (audio) \

Definition of maxim

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : a general truth, fundamental principle, or rule of conduct Mother's favorite maxim was "Don't count your chickens before they hatch."
2 : a proverbial saying advised her daughter with the maxim "marry in haste, repent at leisure"


biographical name (1)
Max·​im | \ ˈmak-səm How to pronounce Maxim (audio) \

Definition of Maxim (Entry 2 of 3)

Sir Hiram Stevens 1840–1916 British (American-born) inventor


biographical name (2)

Definition of Maxim (Entry 3 of 3)

Hudson 1853–1927 brother of Hiram Maxim American inventor

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Examples of maxim in a Sentence

Noun it's a common maxim that “a watched pot never boils,” but that's not literally true
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The Laundromat is divided into sections, each identified by a maxim that helps explain how people like Ramón and Jürgen get so rich. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, "Steven Soderbergh’s The Laundromat Does More Than Explain the Panama Papers—It’s a Rallying Cry Against Greed," 1 Sep. 2019 President Trump has at times worked to disprove this maxim, continuing the trend of recent administrations of both parties. Bobby Jindal, National Review, "Why Trump Needed Someone Like John Bolton," 18 Sep. 2019 Sun Tzu’s ancient maxims don’t command our destiny. Ben Sasse, Twin Cities, "Ben Sasse: China is waging war with U.S. businesses. And it’s winning.," 15 Oct. 2019 The Saints and other teams are about to put that maxim to the test, but in the case of Bridgewater and Brissett, there seems to be a path to sustainable success. John Clayton, The Denver Post, "NFL Week 3 takeaways: The backup quarterbacks are all right," 24 Sep. 2019 Of course, not every evangelical Christian applies the loving-protection maxim to climate change. Olivia Goldhill, Quartz, "The Green New Deal isn’t socialist, it’s “biblical,” argue evangelical environmentalists," 18 Sep. 2019 There’s a famous maxim—frequently misattributed to Orwell, sometimes to Churchill—that people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf. Myke Cole, The New Republic, "The Sparta Fetish Is a Cultural Cancer," 1 Aug. 2019 On the strategic side, two maxims stand out above the rest. Steve Gardner, USA TODAY, "From bat flips to bunts, baseball's 'unwritten rules' can be a challenge to navigate," 6 July 2019 The maxims were the same: live by the checklist; carve the routines into muscle memory; never get complacent. The Economist, "The last of the great explorers," 6 Sep. 2019

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


1567, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for maxim


Middle English maxime, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin maxima, from Latin, feminine of maximus, superlative of magnus large — more at much

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Time Traveler for maxim

Time Traveler

The first known use of maxim was in 1567

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Statistics for maxim

Last Updated

1 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Maxim.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for maxim


How to pronounce Maxim (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of maxim

: a well-known phrase that expresses a general truth about life or a rule about behavior


max·​im | \ ˈmak-səm How to pronounce maxim (audio) \

Kids Definition of maxim

: a short saying (as “live and let live”) expressing a general truth or rule of conduct

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More from Merriam-Webster on maxim

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for maxim

Spanish Central: Translation of maxim

Nglish: Translation of maxim for Spanish Speakers

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