aphorism

Definitions

  • WordNet 3.6
    • n aphorism a short pithy instructive saying
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Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    • n Aphorism A comprehensive maxim or principle expressed in a few words; a sharply defined sentence relating to abstract truth rather than to practical matters. "The first aphorism of Hippocrates is, “Life is short, and the art is long.”"
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Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • n aphorism A definition or concise statement of a principle.
    • n aphorism A precept or rule expressed in few words; a detached sentence containing some important truth: as, the aphorisms of Hippocrates, or of the civil law.
    • n aphorism Synonyms Aphorism, Axiom, Maxim, Precept, Dictum, Apothegm, Saying, Adage, Proverb, Truism, Byword, Saw, all concur in expressing a pithy general proposition, usually in one short sentence; but the longer the form the less applicable do these names become. An aphorism is a truth, pointedly set forth, relating rather to speculative principles, ethics, or science than to practical matters, and forming a brief and excellent statement of a doctrine: thus, “Moderation is the silken string running through the pearl-chain of all virtues,” and “Maladies are cured by nature, not by remedies,” are aphorisms. “Life is short, and art is long,” is from the first aphorism of Hippocrates. An axiom is a self-evident truth, and is therefore used as a basis for reasoning. “A straight line is the shortest distance between two points” is one of the axioms of mathematics; “The greater good is to be chosen before the less” is an axiom of morals. The number of axioms is necessarily limited; of aphorisms, maxims, etc., unlimited. A maxim is a truth which, while not so definite and necessarily true as an axiom, yet equally acceptable to the mind, refers rather to practical than to abstract truth, stating one of the fundamental rules of conduct, civil government, business policy, and the like: as, it is a sound maxim that one should risk in speculation no more than he can afford to lose. It suggests a lesson more pointedly and directly than aphorism, and differs from precept in that a precept is a direct injunction, whereas a maxim is a mere statement of a truth from which a precept may be deduced. It would be a precept to say, “In speculation risk no more than you can afford to lose.” A dictum is not a precept, but an opinion given with authority, as from superior knowledge: as, a dictum of the critics; a dictum of Carlyle's. An apothegm, in common matters what an aphorism is in higher, is essentially a terse proposition that makes a vivid impression on the mind: thus, “In the adversity of our best friends we always find something that doth not displease us”; this is called by Dean Swift a maxim, but is more properly an apothegm. “Heaven helps those that help themselves,” and
    • n aphorism are apothegms. A saying is a lower grade of apothegm; each is likely to be found associated with the name of the author: as, the apothegms of Socrates; a saying of Poor Richard. Each is a felicitous expression current for its own sake, but deriving additional popularity from the celebrity of its author. “Herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth,” John iv. 37; “The little and short sayings of wise and excellent men are of great value, like the dust of gold or the least sparks of the diamond,” Tillotson. Adage and proverb are habitual sayings, generally of long standing, embodying the common sense of mankind on ordinary subjects. The adage is often the more venerable by age and the more dignifled in its character: as, “Necessity knows no law.” A saying may easily become an adage. Proverb as used in the Bible is often a saying: as, “Physician, heal thyself,” Luke iv. 23; but in the modern sense proverb often appears in some concrete figurative and homely form: as, “Too many cooks spoil the broth”; “Every tub must stand on its own bottom.” A truism is a truth too obvious to need explanation or proof; it is a word of relative application; what would be a truism to one might be an axiom or an aphorism to another. A byword is a cant term or phrase, in every one's mouth like a proverb, but applied in disparagement. Saw is a contemptous term for an expression that is more common than wise, or for a trite or foolish saying reiterated to wearisomeness.
    • aphorism Same as aphorize.
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Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • n Aphorism af′or-izm a concise statement of a principle in any science: a brief, pithy saying: an adage
    • v.t Aphorism and v.i. Aph′orise, to coin or use aphorisms
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Quotations

  • Francis H. Bradley
    Francis%20H.%20Bradley
    “Our live experiences, fixed in aphorisms, stiffen into cold epigrams. Our heart's blood, as we write it, turns to mere dull ink.”
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge
    Samuel%20Taylor%20Coleridge
    “Exclusively of the abstract sciences, the largest and worthiest portion of our knowledge consists of aphorisms: and the greatest and best of men is but an aphorism.”
  • Karl Kraus
    Karl%20Kraus
    “An aphorism can never be the whole truth; it is either a half-truth or a truth-and-a-half.”
  • Vladimir Nabokov
    Vladimir%20Nabokov
    “There are aphorisms that, like airplanes, stay up only while they are in motion.”
  • Friedrich Schlegel
    Friedrich%20Schlegel
    “An aphorism ought to be entirely isolated from the surrounding world like a little work of art and complete in itself like a hedgehog.”
  • Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton
    Edward%20G.%20Bulwer-Lytton
    “How many of us have been attracted to reason; first learned to think, to draw conclusions, to extract a moral from the follies of life, by some dazzling aphorism.”

Etymology

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
F. aphorisme, fr. Gr. definition, a short, pithy sentence, fr. to mark off by boundaries, to define; from + to separate, part. See Horizon

Usage

In literature:

How is it then that anything so plain as this should be contradicted by one of the most universally received aphorisms respecting art?
"Modern Painters Volume I (of V)" by John Ruskin
His precepts consist of aphorisms of high moral worth; there is a late copy in the British Museum.
"The Truth About Woman" by C. Gasquoine Hartley
Stoffel himself did not know how profound was the wisdom of his political aphorism.
"Walter Pieterse" by Multatuli
When Bacon is introduced, we are assured that the aphorisms introduced are worthy of Bacon himself.
"Hours in a Library" by Leslie Stephen
It is the aphorism of the index-maker, certainly not of the great master of inductive philosophy.
"Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Volume 2, No. 12, May, 1851." by Various
I had read somewhere an aphorism that everything may be false to itself save human nature.
"The Works of Robert Louis Stevenson - Swanston Edition Vol. 13 (of 25)" by Robert Louis Stevenson
The rolling stone aphorism had been pretty accurately fulfilled in Cospatric's case.
"The Recipe for Diamonds" by Charles John Cutcliffe Wright Hyne
There is not one aphorism which is not to be found in the thirty volumes of Frederick's writings.
"German Problems and Personalities" by Charles Sarolea
He was very proud of this aphorism, evidently thinking it the secret of our imperial race.
"Aliens" by William McFee
Equally admirable and just is this aphorism of our noble and inimitable poet.
"Critical Remarks on Sir Charles Grandison, Clarissa, and Pamela (1754)" by Anonymous
Change of Air, Aphor.
"An Account of the Diseases which were most frequent in the British military hospitals in Germany" by Donald Monro
These aphorisms want the terse brevity of Rochefoucauld, and are in many instances vapid and trivial.
"Old and New London" by Walter Thornbury
This fact appeared to obtain so generally, that it became an aphorism, that bodies expanded by heat and contracted by cold.
"Sound Mind" by John Haslam
An aphorism caught his eye.
"Command" by William McFee
It has been in part owing to our mistaken habit of taking isolated 'texts' out of their connexion, as if they were detached aphorisms.
"St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, Vol. II" by Charles Gore
An aphorism of his late lamented dad occurred to him.
"Jap Herron" by Emily Grant Hutchings
Just as Connor tagged and labeled his idea with this aphorism, so she felt that Connor himself was tagged by them.
"The Garden of Eden" by Max Brand
These books are a hotch-potch of aphorisms, more or less obscure, and of a host of special recipes.
"Travels in Tartary, Thibet, and China During the years 1844-5-6. Volume 2 [of 2]" by Evariste Regis Huc
The bumptious aphorism was a sign that Farwell was still himself.
"A Bed of Roses" by W. L. George
Corporal Bates, though in all probability he had never even heard of Bacon's somewhat trite aphorism, was essentially an "exact" man.
"The Day of Wrath" by Louis Tracy
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In poetry:

The flabby wine-skin of his brain
Yields to some pathologic strain,
And voids from its unstored abysm
The driblet of an aphorism.
"The Mad Philosopher" by Ambrose Bierce
The more proud nature bears a legal sway,
The more should preachers bend the gospel-way:
Oft in the church arise destructive schisms
From anti-evangelic aphorisms;
A legal spirit may be justly nam'd
The fertile womb of ev'ry error damn'd.
"The Believer's Espousals : Chapter V." by Ralph Erskine

In news:

That comics aphorism usually describes Hulk, last seen stealing the spotlight in Joss Whedon's The Avengers blockbuster.
Proverbs, aphorisms, sayings, maxims and adages mean essentially the same thing.
" I would add to this aphorism another one: "The plural of anecdote is data.
Professor Burnyeat reads Heraclitus as a poet whose aphorisms evoke the paradoxical qualities of the human condition.
The aphorism "a hen is merely an egg's way of making another egg" embodies one of the most fundamental truths in biology.
Among my odd hobbies, I'm a collector of aphorisms, and a bit of an aphorist myself.
An aphorist, a writer of aphorisms.
) that have used Nietzsche 's aphorism over the years, just sitting there awaiting a lawsuit.
Some aphorisms evolve with changing times, but more often they get stuck in time.
Wise words pour forth from Chris Smither — observations and aphorisms, similes and internal rhymes, run-on sentences and concise quips, all in a conversational flow.
There is an old business aphorism, "you can't manage what you can't measure".
The aphorism "Know Thyself" is inscribed into the walls of the temple of Apollo at Delphi Greece as a warning to those who overestimate their abilities.
If the recent political era has taught us anything, it has reiterated the enduring truth of George Santayana's aphorism about memory and duplication.
': The History of the Innovator's Aphorism.
For those who want to see the "future that has already happened" (to paraphrase my favorite Peter Drucker aphorism), I recommend reading three illuminating reports.
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In science:

I am in these matters very conscious of my favorite aphorism of Niels Bohr. He cautioned us not to speak-or write-more clearly than we think.
A Quantum Past
Nowadays, most physicists would agree on the statement that information is physical (Rolf Landauer’s aphorism).
Emergence from Symmetry: A New Type of Cellular Automata
If we follow Wittgenstein’s aphorism that “meaning is use”, then R EMs such as KAO S, Tropos, Formal Tropos, Techne, along with all those cited in this paper are limited, since they use pre-existing logics which disregard these sorts defined by the Ontology of the R EM .
Requirements Engineering Methods: A Classification Framework and Research Challenges
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