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A saying is something that is said, notable in one respect or another, to be "a pithy expression of wisdom or truth."[1]

There are a number of specific types of saying:

  • Apothegm. “…an edgy, more cynical aphorism; such as, ‘Men are generally more careful of the breed of their horses and dogs than of their children.’" [2]
  • Aphorism. A concise definition, notably memorable.
  • Adage. An aphorism that has gained credibility by virtue of long use.
  • Cliché. An overly commonplace, hackneyed or trite saying.
  • Epigram. A poetic form of comment on a particular idea, occurrence, or person.
  • Epithet. A descriptive word or phrase that has become a popular formulation.
  • Gnome (Greek: gnome, from gignoskein, to know). A type of saying, especially an aphorism or a maxim, that is designed to provide instruction in a compact form.
  • Idiom. “…an expression whose meaning can’t be derived simply by hearing it, such as ‘Kick the bucket.’[2]
  • Mantra. A religious or mystical syllable or poetic phrase.
  • Maxim. A principle or rule. A maxim is a wise saying, especially one intended to advise or recommend a course of conduct. In comparison to its approximate synonyms: saying, adage, saw, motto, epigram, proverb, aphorism, the term maxim stresses the succinct formulation of an ultimate truth, a fundamental principle, or a rule of conduct. The word derives from the Latin word maximus, "greatest", via an expression maxima propositio, "greatest premise".
  • Motto. A concise expression of motivation used by a group or individual
  • Platitude. A flat, insipid, trite, or weak remark.
  • Proverb. An expression of practical truth or wisdom.
  • Quip. A witty or funny observation.
  • Saw. A saying that is commonplace, longstanding and occasionally trite.
  • Witticism. A smart saying, notable for its form or style rather than its content.

See also


  1. ^ “When is a Pig a Hog?: A Guide to Confoundingly Related English Words” by Bernice Randall (Galahad Books, New York, 1991).
  2. ^ a b “What’s the Difference? A Compendium of Commonly Confused and Misused Words” by Jeff Rovin (Ballantine Books, New York, 1994).


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