Definition of gnomic in English:



  • 1Expressed in or of the nature of short, pithy maxims or aphorisms.

    ‘that most gnomic form, the aphorism’
    • ‘DeLillo's characters have often talked in epigrams or gnomic utterances; now these have a future-shock fatalism about them.’
    • ‘Despite this, Marxists have spent more than a century mining his texts in order to piece together otherwise disparate, and often gnomic, comments and asides on capitalism and nature.’
    • ‘But he doesn't ramble or rant; instead, he suggests vast conceptual contradictions in gnomic, comic haikus.’
    • ‘Both had a taste for gnomic, abstract verse - a taste that buds forth in these letters.’
    • ‘A large obelisk north of the village, erected in 1823, offers the gnomic advice that kings should not strain their prerogatives nor subjects rebel.’
    • ‘It begins with typical examples of the brief gnomic phrases that were to become a hallmark of Franck's style.’
    • ‘In The Approach, a mostly white painting with edges of yellow-gold, a mystical luminosity is supported by a gnomic title.’
    • ‘Sporting a permanently pained expression and the hunched demeanour of a child expecting a smack, he speaks in gnomic aphorisms that frequently sound like bumper-sticker mottoes.’
    • ‘The neglect of the public realm was presided over and encouraged by an ossifying Conservative administration, while the Prince of Wales made gnomic pronouncements on the sidelines.’
    • ‘This area will be reserved for shorter, more gnomic utterances, hopefully enigmatic and curt enough to conceal the arrant imbecility that will have spawned them.’
    • ‘The meaning of this gnomic utterance still eludes me.’
    • ‘In an introductory note to the teacher, he says wryly that ‘Much of the commentary has been kept sufficiently gnomic not to impede the teacher who wants to modify or dissent from it,’ and such a note is borne out by what follows.’
    • ‘He had a talent for self-advertisement and had built himself up into a picturesque figure given to gnomic utterances about his own significance in the world.’
    • ‘These law professors can be succinct, not to say gnomic, not to say utterly obscure.’
    • ‘The phrases evoke both the portentousness of a movie script and the gnomic meter of haiku.’
    • ‘We hear iambs, trochees, Virgil's hexameters, the Norse alliterative lines, each arranged in their various couplets, quatrains, choric stanzas, gnomic verses, and much more besides.’
    • ‘Such writing inevitably takes the form of short fragmentary and often gnomic utterance.’
    • ‘Malraux's own prose could be oracular, gnomic and mannered, but it never, ever, sounded like a series of captions to a photo spread in Paris Match.’
    • ‘As I approach the end of her post, the following gnomic thought pushes itself towards the front of my brain and refuses to budge: borders only delineate states of mind.’
    • ‘He did not go on to explain his position in any detail, but he did not have to; his neo-colonial patronisation illuminated despite his gnomic brevity.’
    concise, succinct, terse, pithy, aphoristic, compact, condensed, compressed, short, brief
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    1. 1.1Enigmatic; ambiguous.
      ‘I had to have the gnomic response interpreted for me’
      • ‘The lyrics at times become too obscure and in some places descend into gnomic utterance.’
      • ‘Even his private comments grew much more guarded as the work itself became increasingly gnomic and resistant to interpretation.’
      • ‘Many of her speeches could sound pretentiously gnomic, or ramblingly incoherent.’
      • ‘Such gnomic utterances are no use to policymakers.’
      • ‘What is missing, he argues, is an acknowledgement of the history of delay, prevarication, demands for clarification, gnomic utterances, false trails, garden paths and double-speak by the republican leadership.’
      • ‘This may seem impossibly gnomic, and it is certainly complicated to decipher, but its main arguments are clear enough.’
      • ‘Any self-respecting philosopher ought to be prepared with some gnomic sayings that can bear several interpretations, at least some of them scandalous.’
      • ‘Sentences are thrown out which, because they lack aesthetic context, must seem gnomic to any but the unnaturally well-informed.’
      • ‘Such tangled connections are how all this book's stories mesh: as found texts, remembered movies and gnomic cross-references.’
      • ‘These gnomic texts serve as a kind of decentering device, forcing the viewer to abandon traditional notions of meaning and enter into Dittborn's symbolic world.’
      • ‘His compositions were elevated and formal, distinguished by the boldness of their metaphors and a marked reliance on myth and gnomic utterance.’
      • ‘Leconte deepens and enriches the situation by having Faber consult the real psychoanalyst in the office next door, who gives him gnomic advice and a large bill.’
      • ‘There are a few gnomic statements, for example ‘stable isotope discrimination is therefore defined as enzyme-mediated fractionation’.’
      • ‘By this time I knew her well enough to understand this gnomic, seemingly banal statement.’
      • ‘We are not far from Carl Andre's floor pieces and his gnomic remark ‘A thing is a hole in a thing it is not,’ which points toward an idea of sculpture as a rupture in the continuum of space.’
      • ‘The collection ends with a typically gnomic pronouncement from Jean-Luc Godard entitled Dans le Noir du Temps which disinters fragments of his old films as part of what is apparently a fiercely grim ongoing farewell to cinema.’
      • ‘In any case, there is always more entertainment to come, courtesy of Jose's gnomic post-match pronouncements.’
      • ‘The precise scope of this responsibility remains as gnomic as in the 1964 version, but the symbolism is obvious.’
      • ‘Even more gnomic and less rewarding was those liner notes' unreadable amplification in his ‘novel’ - ah, remember when the term ‘novel’ conferred cachet?’
      • ‘His style, too, is often tortuous and gnomic, and it can be almost impossible to see what he actually means, as the endless discussions of his analysis of the causes of the war show.’
      ambiguous, equivocal, dual, two-edged, ambivalent, open to debate, open to argument, arguable, debatable
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Early 19th century: from Greek gnōmikos (perhaps via French gnomique), from gnōmē thought, judgment (plural) gnōmai sayings, maxims related to gignōskein know.