Definition of proverbial in English:



  • 1(of a word or phrase) referred to in a proverb or idiom.

    ‘I'm going to stick out like the proverbial sore thumb’
    • ‘Conversely, an inconsistency in your essay will stick out like the proverbial sore thumb.’
    • ‘She looked as though there was something she wanted to say, but either she couldn't find the words or the proverbial cat had her tongue because she didn't say anything.’
    • ‘In other words, the government is between the proverbial rock and the hard place.’
    • ‘On campus, they stick out like the proverbial sore thumb because they are the ones with the bandaged fingers.’
    • ‘The title of the movie refers to the proverbial elephant in the living room - the big problem that is ignored for so long that people are no longer able to recognize it.’
    1. 1.1 Well known, especially so as to be stereotypical.
      ‘the Welsh people, whose hospitality is proverbial’
      • ‘It's just so much easier to curse like the proverbial inner city sailor than to speak in a traditionally sophisticated and cultured manner.’
      • ‘For those who may have been living under the proverbial rock, Andy Warhol is perhaps the most well-known American artist of the twentieth century.’
      • ‘Taken at face value, the question seems simple enough but scratch it and the hidden prejudices and stereotypes tumble out of the cupboard like the proverbial skeletons.’
      • ‘I was notorious for talking myself straight into a proverbial brick wall, and that was something I certainly didn't want to do in this situation.’
      • ‘You don't have to be a Democrat, a liberal, or a socialist to acknowledge that the proverbial wheels are falling off the juggernaut.’
      well known, famous, famed, renowned, traditional, time-honoured, legendary
      View synonyms


  • Used to stand for a word or phrase that is normally part of a proverb or idiom but is not actually uttered.

    ‘one word out of line, and the proverbial hits the fan’
    • ‘The shows have been packed to the proverbials, with punters lining up to get some one-to-one time with their gag gurus.’
    • ‘If nothing else, it should be more open than the only league meeting between the two so far this term, when Chelsea bored the proverbials off everyone on their way to a 1-0 win at Old Trafford.’
    • ‘Let's just say that I've been rushed off my proverbials, settling into life in London.’
    • ‘Although by trying to ‘organise’ the separate groups the PCT bureaucrats displayed their inability to organise the proverbial in a brewery.’


Late Middle English: from Latin proverbialis, from proverbium (see proverb).