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 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 Abuse is a different offense than saying a slur, but each post-scandal musical success is alike in demonstrating the maxim that all publicity is good publicity. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "Why a Disgraced Musician Is Dominating the Charts," 25 Feb. 2021 Paleontologists have reiterated that maxim over and over, often drawing from the way organisms seemed to bounce back from the five mass extinctions Earth has suffered. Riley Black, Scientific American, "Earth’s Biodiversity Bursts Do Not Follow Expected Pattern," 14 Jan. 2021 But that program began under the Obama administration, and some in the space community felt the council meeting was an unseemly political display that violated the space community’s long-standing maxim to be as bipartisan as possible. Washington Post, "As Pence names which astronauts will go to the moon, some see a political ploy," 9 Dec. 2020 Thus, given the maxim that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, most astronomers think ‘Oumuamua is just a weirdly shaped, but natural, piece of debris from elsewhere in the galaxy. David Jewitt, Scientific American, "Everything Scientists Know So Far about the First Interstellar Objects Ever Detected," 1 Oct. 2020

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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Last Updated

6 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Maxim.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Apr. 2021.

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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

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