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 proverbial (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 And those officers who stubbornly stick to their proverbial guns? Rex Huppke,, 20 Oct. 2021 The proverbial end of the University of Utah football season after a Sept. 11 loss at BYU was apparently greatly exaggerated. Josh Newman, The Salt Lake Tribune, 20 Oct. 2021 Herbert's devoted readers are not the only people keeping their fingers crossed that Denis Villeneuve’s film version — a 155-minute saga about a messianic young hero in a world of spice mining and giant sandworms — delivers the proverbial goods. NBC News, 19 Oct. 2021 Two big chunk plays came from Ford (20-yard rush, 23-yard reception) getting them to the 19-yard line, Ridder then chucked the proverbial jump ball to Pierce for a 21-0 lead. Scott Springer, The Enquirer, 16 Oct. 2021 The only way to flatten the proverbial curve was to change individual behavior. New York Times, 14 Oct. 2021 Analysts say demand for 5G phones would be even stronger if a proverbial killer app had emerged—a feature that makes adopting the technology virtually indispensable. John Mccormick, WSJ, 12 Oct. 2021 Of course, one of the aforementioned factors -- the audience's feeling of discovery -- is also the hardest to sustain in the proverbial bottle. Brian Lowry, CNN, 5 Oct. 2021 In fact, with more than 200 chiming watch calibers under its proverbial belt. Roberta Naas, Forbes, 7 Apr. 2021

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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Time Traveler for proverbial

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The first known use of proverbial was in 1548

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Last Updated

23 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Proverbial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Oct. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on proverbial

Nglish: Translation of proverbial for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of proverbial for Arabic Speakers


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