noun (1)
prov·​erb | \ ˈprä-ˌvərb How to pronounce proverb (audio) \

Definition of proverb

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : a brief popular epigram or maxim : adage


proverbed; proverbing; proverbs

Definition of proverb (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : to speak of proverbially
2 obsolete : to provide with a proverb


noun (2)
\ ˈprō-ˌvərb How to pronounce pro-verb (audio) , -ˈvərb \

Definition of pro-verb (Entry 3 of 3)

: a form of the verb do used to avoid repetition of a verb (such as do in "act as I do")

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Did You Know?

Proverbs probably appeared with the dawn of language. Sayings such as "A stitch in time saves nine", or "Pride goeth before a fall", or "Least said, soonest mended", or "To everything there is a season" are easily memorized nuggets of wisdom. But the convenient thing about proverbs is that there's often one for every point of view. For every "Look before you leap" there's a "He who hesitates is lost". "A fool and his money are soon parted" can be countered with "To make money you have to spend money". A cynic once observed, "Proverbs are invaluable treasures to dunces with good memories".

Examples of proverb in a Sentence

Noun (1) her grandfather has a proverb for every occasion
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun As proof and pudding changed meanings over the centuries, English speakers remembered what the proverb was supposed to signify, but forgot exactly why. Melissa Mohr, The Christian Science Monitor, "When is the proof in the pudding, anyway?," 24 Dec. 2020 The chaplain recited the proverb about catching more flies with honey than vinegar. James R. Hagerty, WSJ, "Walter E. Williams Rejected Conventional Cures for Poverty," 11 Dec. 2020 The name came from a Tswana proverb about the value of working things out together—and how the first, fizziest brainwave may in the end prove less productive than a humbler idea. The Economist, "The room where it happens William Kentridge contemplates history and creation," 9 Dec. 2020 The discussion quickly led to the coining of a new chengyu (成语), or classical-style proverb consisting of four characters. Jane Li, Quartz, "A viral pun in China foreshadows the biggest shadow over Ant’s monster IPO," 2 Nov. 2020 But the case for the ancient proverb about necessity, motherhood, and invention is far from airtight. Peter Coy,, "Investigating the Mystery of the Jump in Startup Applications," 19 Oct. 2020 The French have a proverb: Children need models more than critics. Bernadeia Johnson, Star Tribune, "Former super says: Seniority layoff system still expels educators of color," 9 Oct. 2020 To be prevented from speaking, an Akan proverb warned, was akin to being murdered; to silence another unjustly was a grievous crime. Fara Dabhoiwala, The New York Review of Books, "Speech and Slavery in the West Indies," 3 Aug. 2020 That concept of the swan song—one’s last, most beautiful expression—also comes up in Aesop’s fables and in Aeschylus’s Agamemnon, and was already a proverb by the third century B.C. Zeynep Tufekci, The Atlantic, "The Tragic Loss of Coronavirus Patients’ Final Words," 9 July 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Languages around the world have proverbs about how good can be discovered in, or result from, negative situations. Melissa Mohr, The Christian Science Monitor, "Sayings that uncover the silver linings," 16 Apr. 2020

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

Noun (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (2)

1907, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for proverb

Noun (1)

Middle English proverbe, from Anglo-French, from Latin proverbium, from pro- + verbum word — more at word

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Time Traveler for proverb

Time Traveler

The first known use of proverb was in the 14th century

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Statistics for proverb

Last Updated

31 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Proverb.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for proverb


How to pronounce pro-verb (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of proverb

: a brief popular saying (such as "Too many cooks spoil the broth") that gives advice about how people should live or that expresses a belief that is generally thought to be true


prov·​erb | \ ˈprä-ˌvərb How to pronounce proverb (audio) \

Kids Definition of proverb

: a short well-known saying containing a wise thought : maxim, adage “Haste makes waste” is a proverb.

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