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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Synonyms for proverb

Synonyms: Noun (1)

adage, aphorism, apothegm, byword, epigram, maxim, saw, saying, sententia, word

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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

And then the dog barks, and the caravan moves on, to paraphrase the old Arabic proverb. Corey Seymour, Vogue, "I Watched the New Steve Bannon Documentary, The Brink, So You Don’t Have To," 27 Mar. 2019 Or as the Yiddish proverb goes: Man plans, God laughs. Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, "Picky Eaters? For Parents, Food-Shaming Is All Too Real," 28 Jan. 2019 Events are accompanied by Igbo proverbs and set within a greater supernatural order. Sam Sacks, WSJ, "Fiction: The Sweat and Cries of Humankind," 11 Jan. 2019 Though one American has brought a few bottles of Mamma Beer into the U.S., the brew is likely to be a Czech-only phenomenon, where the average person consumes 36 gallons of beer per year and people still repeat an old proverb: Beer is Medicine. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "This Beer Was Developed For Breast Cancer Patients," 9 July 2018 Add this to your book of Russian proverbs: He who only passes is passed. Ronald Blum,, "'Tiki-taka' generation ends as Spain leave the World Cup," 1 July 2018 The singer shares all kinds of memories including the food, the creature that most scared her and her mom/abuela’s craziest proverb. Billboard Staff, Billboard, "'Growing Up Latino': Natti Natasha Shares Childhood Memories & Favorite Food," 4 July 2018 Her Twitter account fired off a handful of generic messages before going radio silent after June 15, celebrating the US’s successful bid for the World Cup in 2026, touting women’s responsible borrowing habits, and quoting a Chinese proverb. Emily Stewart, Vox, "Ivanka Trump speaks out on family separation — after her father said he’d stop it," 20 June 2018 When thinking about Ocasio-Cortez and her time in Boston, Lukes considered the proverb: Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan. J.d. Capelouto,, "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s friends in Boston recall her drive and dedication," 27 June 2018

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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Statistics for proverb

Last Updated

22 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for proverb

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

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More Definitions for proverb



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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