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


it's a common maxim that “a watched pot never boils,” but that's not literally true

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

And yet, to ride that thin line of risk is where all the learning is. Routines and discovery go hand in hand: Traditional parenting maxims emphasize the importance of routines. National Geographic, "EXPLORE THE WORLD WITH NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC," 26 Mar. 2019 Behold the ever-growing garden of inspirational maxims ordering us all to be ourselves! Heather Wilhelm, National Review, "Be Yourself, the Screen Commanded," 25 July 2019 The 2016 presidential election proved the maxim that every vote counts. NBC News, "9 states where the rules for voting have been changed or challenged ahead of 2020," 13 July 2019 Jacques Rivette’s famous maxim that every film is a documentary of its own making comes to mind. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Review: ‘Our Time’ opens up a marriage and finds more beauty than insight," 11 July 2019 The tidying process Kondo’s methods for tidying are comprised of a few simple steps and maxims. Alejandra Borunda, National Geographic, "Marie Kondo helps declutter homes. What does that mean for plastic waste?," 22 Mar. 2019 But the now eight-year-old maxim has its serious downsides. Aarian Marshall, WIRED, "What Boeing’s 737 MAX Has to Do With Cars: Software," 30 June 2019 If consistency counts, an examination of Castro’s record at HUD shows a steadfast focus on a single concept - opportunity - which has its roots in Castro’s own modest upbringing and lives on as a maxim of his presidential quest. Bill Lambrecht,, "Julián Castro draws on HUD experience as 2020 candidates pitch affordable housing plans," 13 June 2019 In the mid-Nineties, fast ten, slow twenty seemed like a maxim to help me eke out some autonomy. Mitchell S. Jackson, Harper's magazine, "Opportunity Cost," 10 Feb. 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.

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

16 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for maxim

The first known use of maxim was in 1567

See more words from the same year

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

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).


one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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