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

Keep scrolling for more

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 This is a classic example of John F. Kennedy’s maxim that victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan. William A. Galston, WSJ, "Biden’s First 100 Days—and the Next 100," 27 Apr. 2021 These days, show business’s age-old maxim feels more relevant than ever: The show must go on. Max Maeckler, Vogue, "Dua Lipa Performed at Sir Elton John’s Virtual AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Pre-Party," 26 Apr. 2021 Newton’s third law, that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, is a tired maxim of everyday physics, but when your face is involved in the equation the third law becomes the only thing in the universe that matters. John Seabrook, The New Yorker, "The E-Scooters Loved by Silicon Valley Roll Into New York," 19 Apr. 2021 One particularly eventful day sees a piglet get lost in a pile of straw, only to eventually find its way out, and no offense to George Bernard Shaw, but the maxim that there can be no drama without conflict has never felt more false. Jessica Kiang, Los Angeles Times, "Review: ‘Gunda’ proves to be a wordlessly sublime slice of porcine life down on the farm," 15 Apr. 2021 But the old maxim has taken on a new and more plausible form today. Gerard Baker, WSJ, "Western Culture Elites Are Giving Away Lenin’s Rope," 22 Mar. 2021 The maxim hangs aptly alongside the show’s most unusual contribution, Ashley Shey’s cloth-and-canvas abstraction, not exactly a print but hand-sewn in an edition of 10. Washington Post, "In the galleries: A focus on the intersection of art and movement," 26 Feb. 2021 Now, with people in Rome anticipating the completion, after more than two years, of one of Francis’s signature initiatives—a reform of the Vatican bureaucracy, known as the Curia—the Latin maxim is back on the agenda. Paul Elie, The New Yorker, "Is the Vatican Finally Ready to Get Serious About Women in the Church?," 3 Mar. 2021 Three decades ago, the once-mighty savings and loan industry destroyed itself, partly by ignoring that maxim. James Freeman, WSJ, "‘Schools Not Screens’," 1 Mar. 2021

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about maxim

Statistics for maxim

Last Updated

30 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Maxim.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 May. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for maxim



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

More from Merriam-Webster on maxim

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for maxim

Nglish: Translation of maxim for Spanish Speakers

Comments on maxim

What made you want to look up maxim? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Star Wars Words Quiz

  • cu jedi training
  • The bounty portion of bounty hunters (such as Boba Fett) comes from a Latin word meaning
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!