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 Similarly, elders from the region which is now modern day Ghana are steeped within the oral tradition, and act as conduits of knowledge by passing down proverbs, some of which are reflected in Kente cloth print. Lavinya Stennett, Quartz Africa, "West Africa’s oral histories tell us a more complete story than traditional post-colonial narratives," 16 Dec. 2019 Most—if not all—of us have experienced the truth of this proverb, and faced the failure of our plans. António Abrantes, Quartz at Work, "How the best teams deal with failure," 5 Dec. 2019 The proverb holds that nothing succeeds like success, but the more powerful dynamic in public life is that nothing fails like failure. Kevin D. Williamson, National Review, "The Hyper-Partisan Stupidity Arms Race," 19 Nov. 2019 Of course, the doctor proverb shouldn't be taken literally, but the overall sentiment is true: Eating vegetables and fruits daily does have health benefits. Cara Rosenbloom,, "What science has to say about these age-old health adages," 18 Oct. 2019 That witticism, now canonized as an American proverb, proved false in regards to the magazine the artist founded a half-century ago. Vogue, "Interview Magazine Celebrated 50 Years and a New Book With a Cocktail-Soaked Downtown Dinner," 30 Oct. 2019 The 30-year-old Labuschagne still speaks with the thick Afrikaans accent from his native Pretoria, but quoted a Japanese proverb when speaking about the his side's tantalizing prospects. Daniel Gallan, CNN, "Japan's South African stalwart Pieter Labuschagne drives strength in diversity," 11 Oct. 2019 The enemy of my enemy is my friend, as the proverb goes. Jonah Goldberg, National Review, "How Trump’s Effort to Damage Biden Could Backfire Badly," 2 Oct. 2019 As the proverb says, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Robert Rosenkranz, Quartz, "How these well-intended political reforms landed us with Donald Trump," 30 Sep. 2019

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

30 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Proverb.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 25 January 2020.

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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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Comments on proverb

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


dull or mediocre

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