pro·​ver·​bi·​al | \prə-ˈvər-bē-əl \

Definition of proverbial 

1 : of, relating to, or resembling a proverb

2 : that has become a proverb or byword : commonly spoken of the proverbial smoking gun

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Other Words from proverbial

proverbially \prə-​ˈvər-​bē-​ə-​lē \ adverb

Examples of proverbial in a Sentence

Insanity roamed through her large midwestern tribe, cloistered in proverbial dark closets in gabled houses in areas of the country where no one else lived for miles and miles … — Lynne Tillman, Motion Sickness, 1991 I keep running across people who speak fondly about what they imagine to be the comforts of autocracy, who long for the assurances of the proverbial man on the white horse likely to do something hard and puritanical about the moral relativism that has made a mess of the cities, the schools, and prime-time television. — Lewis H. Lapham, Harper's, November 1990

Recent Examples on the Web

Like the proverbial thin man trying to get out of a fat one, a half-dozen stories could break free from this book. Thomas Mallon, WSJ, "‘The Dakota Winters’ Review: Uptown in the ’80s," 30 Nov. 2018 However, as Florence continues to knock on the proverbial door, Bynum can only remember Hurricane Hazel, which decimated the region in 1954. Lucia I. Suarez Sang, Fox News, "'Life-threatening' Hurricane Florence shuts down North Carolina bar that never closes," 13 Sep. 2018 This group must navigate their day-to-day knowing that a specter from their past will always be there in some shape or form, even after their proverbial debt to society has been paid. Dennis Eckhoff, Vox, "After my felony conviction, I didn’t know if I could vote. It took me 12 years to find out.," 29 Oct. 2018 Just like your favorite song can instantly put you in a good mood, the right music can dust away the proverbial cobwebs. Alyssa Nassner, Curbed, "Cleansing 101: Keeping your home’s energy in check," 17 Oct. 2018 Even when Jones was winning Gold Glove awards from 2012-14, there wasn't much consensus about him in the data community — his value came from the proverbial eye test. Jon Meoli,, "Orioles' Showalter: Jones' challenges in field 'not something that has been noticed to an extent'," 6 June 2018 But the proverbial ball was rolling and starting in 2013-14, Morgan beat Buford 69-45 at the Macon Centerplex to win the Class AAA championship. Robert Alan Richardson,, "‘Unfinished business’ mentality fueling Morgan County boys; top Class AAA games this weekend," 18 Jan. 2018 What happens in a theater performance is defined by its separation from the actual world, by that proverbial fourth wall, which makes the fiction of the stage real. Jordan Cutler-tietjen, sacbee, "Behind the scenes at Music Circus: "The better you are at your job, the less people notice"," 6 July 2018 That seemingly small need for human connection is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg as Jones revisits past trauma that ranges from a harsh break-up to the death of his mother. Lauren Delgado,, "Review: Hello - Fringe 2018," 15 May 2018

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

1548, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for proverbial

see proverb entry 1

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Statistics for proverbial

Last Updated

4 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for proverbial

The first known use of proverbial was in 1548

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More Definitions for proverbial



English Language Learners Definition of proverbial

: of, relating to, or resembling a proverb

: commonly spoken of : widely known


pro·​ver·​bi·​al | \prə-ˈvər-bē-əl \

Kids Definition of proverbial

1 : of a proverb a proverbial expression

2 : commonly spoken of You have the proverbial beginner's luck.

Other Words from proverbial

proverbially adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on proverbial

Spanish Central: Translation of proverbial

Nglish: Translation of proverbial for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of proverbial for Arabic Speakers

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