Definition of aphorism in English:



  • 1A pithy observation which contains a general truth.

    ‘the old aphorism ‘the child is father to the man’’
    [mass noun] ‘the debate begins and ends at the level of aphorism, with commentators saying that something must be done’
    • ‘And the loveable curmudgeon is responsible for most of literature's best quotations, maxims and aphorisms.’
    • ‘We all know the old aphorism that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.’
    • ‘The fact of the matter is that he has not put his money where his mouth is, to use the old aphorism.’
    • ‘Of those numbers we are obliged to say they confirm the truth in the Disraeli aphorism, ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.’’
    • ‘It is a book of aphorisms - short, pithy, philosophical nuggets.’
    • ‘Doesn't matter that my most common response is to point out that aphorisms are the cheapest form of intelligent comment, I get reminded now and then that sarcasm just isn't on.’
    • ‘In all these examples an aphorism as a general truth makes a powerful point in its present context, but it could also make good sense in a very different context.’
    • ‘Wilde, who could never resist an aphorism, frequently undermines the seriousness of his beliefs by his brilliant and paradoxical style.’
    • ‘It is a book of hard-won wisdom and stark pleasure in the form of 500 lyrical aphorisms and epigrams.’
    • ‘This pithy aphorism graphically tells us the sad state of affairs on the roads of India.’
    • ‘Ethics was about obligations to other people, expressed in aphorisms such as ‘do as you would be done by’.’
    • ‘Americans of a certain age will recall Douglas MacArthur's pithy aphorism: ‘There is no substitute for victory.’’
    • ‘Edison's method was to doggedly persist in searching for an answer to a problem, expressed in his memorable aphorism that invention is ‘ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration.’’
    • ‘Today, the old aphorism about power has been forgotten.’
    • ‘He came to take great pleasure in his craft with words, honing them like his little wood sculptures, dreaming up pithy wisecracks and aphorisms which he collected and displayed in his office.’
    • ‘A small, lively man with limpid blue eyes and an unruly thatch of thinning white hair, Hill delighted participants in his workshop with his pithy one-liners and folksy aphorisms.’
    • ‘Politics is the art of the possible, as the old aphorism puts it, and progress is usually incremental.’
    • ‘Life, apparently, begins at 40, or so the old aphorism would have us believe.’
    • ‘Like most loved aphorisms, it contains a substantial truth, but also disguises the full truth.’
    • ‘In a neat comment, which like many of his aphorisms contains a creative paradox, he says that ‘translation feeds a national literature’.’
    • ‘As with many quotes there's a good deal of truth in it and, as with many aphorisms, that truth becomes more and more shallow and two-dimensional as it is examined.’
    proverb, maxim, axiom, adage, saw, tag, motto, precept, epigram, epigraph, dictum, gnome, pearl of wisdom
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    1. 1.1A concise statement of a scientific principle, typically by a classical author.
      ‘the opening sentence of the first aphorism of Hippocrates’
      • ‘His eighth chapter - reproduced on this site from the Levy-Cantera translation - contained 120 aphorisms and generalizations on astrology, highly relevant for the art of horary.’
      • ‘There is no connection with the Vedas, and virtually no mathematical usefulness in these aphorisms.’


Early 16th century: from French aphorisme or late Latin aphorismus, from Greek aphorismos definition, from aphorizein define.