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PROVERB

PROVERB. A short traditional saying of a didactic or advisory nature, in which a generalization is given specific, often metaphorical, expression: A stitch in time saves nine, meaning that action taken now will prevent a small problem becoming larger. Proverbs are found in many languages and cultures. A common idea may be given different local references: English carrying coals to Newcastle equivalent to Greek sending owls to Athens. Proverbial sayings were popular in the Middle Ages and treated as accepted wisdom. In the 16c and 17c, they were often used in literature, to support arguments and give emphasis to the author's views.

Proverbs are often of linguistic interest and may show lexical change. The saying ‘Do not spoil the hog for a halfpenny-worth of tar’ is recorded in 1600, but changed to sheep in 1651 and ship in 1823. The mnemonic needs of oral transmission may appear in: rhyme ‘Birds of a feather flock together’; ASSONANCE ‘A stitch in time saves nine’; ALLITERATION ‘Look before you leap’. Two proverbs may seem contradictory when in fact they contain truths applicable to different situations: Too many cooks spoil the broth as against Many hands make light work. Proverbs in present-day usage may often be regarded as clichés, but their persistence indicates their sociolinguistic importance. Commonly, when they occur in informal conversation, only the opening phrase is used: Well, a stitch in time, you know; Don't count your chickens (before they are hatched). See METAPHOR, QUOTATION.

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proverb

proverb, short statement of wisdom or advice that has passed into general use. More homely than aphorisms, proverbs generally refer to common experience and are often expressed in metaphor, alliteration, or rhyme, e.g., "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush," "When the cat's away, the mice will play." Proverbs abound in the Bible, in early Greek and Roman literature, and in the gnomic verse of the Anglo-Saxons. In medieval literature proverbs serve in homilies and exempla to drive home moral lessons and, as in the works of Chaucer, to add a humorous note. To the traditional folk sayings the Renaissance writers added the more literary proverbs from the classics; the most famous collection was Adagia by Erasmus (1500). Proverbs were extremely popular among the Elizabethans, the most famous collections being those of John Heywood (1549?) and Florio (1578). Although the popularity of proverbs declined in the 18th cent., they have become a subject for research and classification in more modern times. There is a famous collection by William Hazlitt (1869). Noted 20th-century compilations include The Book of Proverbs (1965), ed. by Paul Rosenzweig, and The Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs (1970), ed. by W. G. Smith and F. P. Wilson.

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proverb

proverb a short pithy saying in general use; a concise sentence, often metaphorical or alliterative in form, stating a general truth or piece of advice.

Proverbs is a book of the Bible containing maxims attributed mainly to Solomon.

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proverb

proverb XIV. — (O)F. proverbe or L. prōverbium, f. PRO-1 + verbum WORD, as if ‘a set of words put forth’.
So proverbial XV. — L.

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proverb

pro·verb / ˈprävˌərb/ • n. a short pithy saying in general use, stating a general truth or piece of advice.

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proverb

proverbacerb, blurb, curb, disturb, herb, kerb, perturb, Serb, superb, verb •suburb • potherb • willowherb •exurb • adverb • proverb

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