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A saying is any concise expression that is especially memorable because of its meaning or style.[citation needed] Sayings are categorized as follows:

  • Aphorism: a general, observational truth; "a pithy expression of wisdom or truth".[1]
    • Adage, proverb, or saw: a widely known or popular aphorism that has gained credibility by long use or tradition.
    • Apothegm/Apophthegm: "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]
  • Axiom: a proposition that commends itself to general acceptance; a well-established or universally conceded principle; a maxim, rule, or law.[3]
  • Cliché or bromide: an unoriginal and overused saying.
    • Platitude: a cliché that is unsuccessfully presented as though it were meaningful, original, or effective.
  • Epigram: a clever and often poetic written saying that comments on a specific person, idea, or thing; it especially denominates such a saying that is conspicuously put at the beginning of a text.
  • Epitaph: a saying in honor of a decedent, often engraved on a headstone or plaque.
  • Epithet: a descriptive word or saying already widely associated with a specific person, idea, or thing.
  • Idiom, idiomatic phrase or, phraseme: a saying that has only a non-literal interpretation; "an expression whose meaning can't be derived simply by hearing it, such as 'kick the bucket.'"[2]
  • Mantra: a religious, mystical, or other spiritual saying that is repeated, for example, in meditation.
  • Maxim: (1) an instructional expression of a general principle or rule of morality or (2) simply a synonym for "aphorism"; they include:
  • Motto: a saying used frequently by a person or group to summarize its general mission.
    • Credo: a motto implicitly or explicitly extended to express a larger belief system.
    • Slogan: a motto with the goal of persuading.
  • Quip: a clever or humorous saying based on an observation.
  • Witticism: a saying that is clever and usually humorous and that is notable for its form or style just as much as, or more than, its meaning.


  1. ^ Randall, Bernice (1 January 1997). When Is a Pig a Hog ? – A Guide to Confoundingly Related English Words. Bbs Pub Corp. p. 113. ISBN 978-0883659779. Retrieved 27 October 2023.
  2. ^ a b Rovin, Jeff (1994). What's the Difference? A Compendium of Commonly Confused and Misused Words. New York: Ballantine Books.
  3. ^ Oxford English Dictionary Online, accessed 2012-04-28

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Sayings at Wikimedia Commons