pro·​ver·​bi·​al prə-ˈvər-bē-əl How to pronounce proverbial (audio)
: of, relating to, or resembling a proverb
: that has become a proverb or byword : commonly spoken of
the proverbial smoking gun
proverbially adverb

Example Sentences

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 The latter artist in particular became Yankovic’s proverbial white whale. Josh Weiss, Forbes, 25 Jan. 2023 But the victory didn’t exactly indicate the team had turned the proverbial corner or even improved. oregonlive, 23 Jan. 2023 On Friday, 145 pounds came out of the proverbial hat to start all four matches. J. Daniel Pearson, Orlando Sentinel, 21 Jan. 2023 In this scenario, large language models would be like the proverbial monkeys with typewriters, only smarter and possessed of functionally infinite energy. Ross Andersen, The Atlantic, 18 Jan. 2023 Tesla's pulling a page from In-N-Out Burger's playbook and giving Model Y buyers the chance to order a cheaper variant off a proverbial secret menu. Greg Fink, Car and Driver, 15 Jan. 2023 And here, Baylor DT/NT/Small Planet Siaki Ika throws him aside like your proverbial sack of whatever. Michael Haag, Dallas News, 13 Jan. 2023 Biden notably campaigned as a transitional figure who would pass the proverbial torch onto the next generation of Democratic leadership. Charlie Dent, CNN, 16 July 2022 Consider your thinking and reasoning skills as the proverbial canary in the coal mine. Amber Smith, Discover Magazine, 16 Dec. 2022 See More

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.

Word History


see proverb entry 1

First Known Use

1548, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of proverbial was in 1548

Dictionary Entries Near proverbial

Cite this Entry

“Proverbial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


pro·​ver·​bi·​al prə-ˈvər-bē-əl How to pronounce proverbial (audio)
: of, relating to, or resembling a proverb
proverbial wisdom
: commonly spoken of
the proverbial beginner's luck
proverbially adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on proverbial

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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