What is the Difference Between Aphorism and Adage

The main difference between aphorism and adage is that an adage generally has a longer history than an aphorism.

Aphorisms and adages are short and memorable sayings expressing a general truth. Most of us use words like the adage, maxim, proverb, aphorism as synonyms, assuming that they all mean the same. However, this is not true. Despite their many similarities, these sayings do have a slight difference. So, this article looks at the difference between aphorism and adage.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is an Aphorism
     – Definition, Characteristics, Examples
2. What is an Adage
     – Definition, Characteristics, Examples
3. What are the Similarities Between Aphorism and Adage
     – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Aphorism and Adage
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Adage, Aphorism, Proverb

Difference Between Aphorism and Adage - Comparison Summary

What is an Aphorism?

An aphorism is a concise and memorable expression that contains a general truth. Since they contain a truth, they are universally accepted. We even use them in our daily speech. Aphorisms can be humorous and witty, but most of all, they are memorable and give us moral instruction. Furthermore, aphorisms tend to be more direct than adages and proverbs. Let’s now quickly look at some examples:

“Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting, experience deceptive, judgment difficult.” – Hippocrates

“Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone.” – Ella Wheeler Wilcox  

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” – George Bernard Shaw

“The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” – William Faulkner

“Youth is a blunder; Manhood a struggle; Old age regret.” – Benjamin Disraeli

Main Difference - Aphorism vs Adage

Moreover, the word aphorism comes from the Greek word aphorismos which means “definition.” In fact, the term aphorism was coined by Hippocrates, who wrote a book called Aphorisms, which contained concise statements of medical truths. Later, the definition of aphorism expanded to include truths about other fields as well. Furthermore, a person who creates or repeats aphorisms is known as an aphorist.

What is an Adage?

An adage is basically a traditional saying expressing a common experience or observation. Moreover, an adage has a long history, and it is often passed down through generations. Since it’s an old saying, it is generally accepted to be true. Thus, an adage gains credibility through its long existence. Furthermore, the term adage comes from the Latin adagium, meaning ‘saying.’

Some common adages include;

Love is blind.

Little strokes fell great oaks.

A penny saved is a penny earned.

Nothing ventured; nothing gained.

Better safe than sorry.

Eat to live and not live to eat.

You live, you learn.

Difference Between Aphorism and Adage

Although most adages embody common observations, some can be metaphoric and have hidden meanings. Furthermore, adages are quite similar to proverbs.

Similarities Between Aphorism and Adage

  • Aphorisms and adages are short and memorable sayings.
  • Moreover, both contain a general truth about life.

Difference Between Aphorism and Adage

Definition

An aphorism is a concise observation which contains a general truth whereas an adage is a traditional saying conveying a common experience or observation.

History

An adage is usually older than an aphorism. Moreover, adages are usually passed from generation to generation.

Creator

Most aphorisms have a known creator, whereas most adages do not have creators.

Conclusion

An aphorism is a concise observation which contains a general truth whereas an adage is a traditional saying that expresses a common experience or observation. The main difference between aphorism and adage is that an adage generally has a longer history than an aphorism.

Reference:

1. “Adage.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 25 June 2019, Available here.
2. “Aphorism.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Sept. 2019, Available here.
3. “Examples of Adage in Literature.” YourDictionary, 10 Apr. 2019, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Aphorism (PSF)” By Pearson Scott Foresman – Archives of Pearson Scott Foresman, but donated to the Wikimedia Foundation (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Proverb False Friend” (Public Domain) via PublicDomainPictures.net

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

Leave a Reply