What is Adage? Definition, Meaning and Examples


An adage is an old and established saying that is not necessarily true, but is often quoted nevertheless.

Adage vs. Proverb : Definition and Difference

In literature, adages and proverbs are quite similar. Nonetheless, an adage usually differs from a proverb in the following ways:

  • An adage is usually based on ancient wisdom. A proverb tends to have a modern origin.
  • Adages take the form of a generalization that is often used in a common phrasing. Proverbs are generalizations that are very specific.
  • Adages are usually more precise than proverbs.
  • An adage often suggests a paradox or a contradiction. A proverb rarely suggests a paradox.

Function of Adage in Literature

Adages serve as short maxims or sayings that are often used for practical, useful purposes.

They can serve as warnings or encouragement, and they are often described as needed for their practical and symbolic value.

The following example is a household inspiration that is meant to remind people to be considerate in their every day activities.

For instance, in the book I think of myself as a shepherd (1979), the author says, “A dog that doesn’t bark does not warn its owner of intruders.”

Internal Meaning : Examples

One of the best examples of the act of adage comes from the famous author Stephen King.

He depicts the adage of all adages by saying “They’re only as good as the world thinks of them.”

The British writer Jane Austen also mentions the adage of all adages, saying “I hate a rainy day” in her 1814 novel “Pride and Prejudice.”

This is a reminder of the reality that the most popular and famous things in life are rarely the same as the most appealing.

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