pro·​ver·​bi·​al | \ prə-ˈvər-bē-əl How to pronounce proverbial (audio) \

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 How to pronounce proverbially (audio) \ 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

Now, Nesbitt is rising from the proverbial ashes for a third act triumph with The Sun Will Come Up, The Seasons Will Change, her gorgeously ethereal sophomore album. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Nina Nesbitt Opens Up About Being Dropped from Her Label at 20—And How It Helped Her Find Her Real Voice," 1 Feb. 2019 Now, any ghosts (proverbial or otherwise that surfaced early October will begin to take shape. Aliza Kelly Faragher, Allure, "What October's Aries Horoscope Means for You," 30 Sep. 2018 Facing a nation already scarred by Kanye West’s donning of the proverbial and literal MAGA hat in recent weeks, Kardashian West has already had to address what employing her celebrity in this context might do to promote this administration. Bridget Read, Vogue, "Why Kim Kardashian West Is Heading to the White House," 30 May 2018 Not to beat the proverbial dead horse here, but read the product package. Roy Berendsohn, Popular Mechanics, "5 DIY Jobs You're Doing Wrong," 20 Dec. 2018 This spooked investors in these institutions, causing them to run for the proverbial doors, precipitating the crisis. Emily Stewart, Vox, "How close are we to another financial crisis? 8 experts weigh in.," 18 Sep. 2018 If the company goes under, or if Evergrande seizes control, Jia will be on a proverbial island in his oceanside homes. Sean O'kane, The Verge, "Faraday Future CEO’s long trail of debt is finally catching up to him," 8 Dec. 2018 Some fear that India and Pakistan may reach for the proverbial nuclear button sooner rather than later. Alex Ward, Vox, "This is exactly how a nuclear war would kill you," 19 Oct. 2018 My tweet became the target of their selective umbrage, and my Twitter mentions became a proverbial dumpster fire as people accused me of being a racist and called for my employer, The Root, to fire me for being a racist. Monique Judge, The Root, "For White People Who Pretend Not to Understand What Racism Is or How It Works: Here’s a Refresher Course," 30 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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Last Updated

27 Feb 2019

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The first known use of proverbial was in 1548

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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 How to pronounce proverbial (audio) \

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

Comments on proverbial

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


a shady place in a garden or forest

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