Sometimes, the challenge of communicating can be efficiency. This means communicating large ideas through the least amount of language possible. One of the best devices we have that does this is the adage. You’ve likely encountered adages in your daily life, but had not even recognized them. What is an adage exactly and how are they used? 

What is an Adage in Language?

First, let’s define an adage

Adages are essential because they encapsulate generations of wisdom and life lessons in concise, memorable phrases, providing guidance and perspective in our day-to-day lives. Let’s begin by defining an adage.


What is an adage?

An adage is a short, memorable, and usually philosophical observation that communicates an important truth derived from experience, custom, or both, and that many persons consider to be true and credible due to its long-lived use or wide-ranging usage. This timeless wisdom, distilled into a concise statement, often employs metaphorical language or allegory, and is handed down through generations as a tried and true guiding principle for life.

Adage Examples

  • "Actions speak louder than words"

  • "The early bird catches the worm"

  • "Don't judge a book by its cover"

Adage Meaning 

Characteristics of an Adage

Recognizing an adage is not as challenging as other literary devices and rhetorical devices. Adages possess distinct characteristics that set them apart, making them truly remarkable. 

Concise Yet Profound

Adages are like concise yet profound books that leave us pondering. They encapsulate wisdom in a few words, making a lasting impact on our thoughts and actions. Adages often utilize metaphor or allegory to keep concepts concise and accessible. 

Universally Accepted Truths

Unlike mere opinions dressed up as facts, adages are universally accepted truths. They transcend individual perspectives and resonate across cultures and generations. They offer timeless wisdom that stands the test of time.

Remarkable Durability

Adages have an incredible ability to withstand the test of time. These timeless wisdom nuggets have been passed down through centuries and still hold relevance in our modern world. They serve as a powerful testament to the enduring power of human experience and wisdom. It's truly fascinating how these age-old sayings continue to resonate with us today.

What is an Adage Example?

Examples of Adages

Adages have permeated our language and culture for centuries. Undoubtedly, there are adages that you have used that were used long before your time. Each adage carries with it a profound message, serving as a gentle reminder of life's valuable lessons.

"The pen is mightier than the sword." 

This powerful adage pays homage to the extraordinary influence of communication and the written word. It underscores the fact that words possess the ability to shape history, inspire change, and bring about transformation, far surpassing the might of any weapon.

"Don't count your chickens before they're hatched." 

This insightful adage serves as a gentle cautionary tale, reminding us not to prematurely assume success or take things for granted. It encourages patience, reminding us to remain grounded and avoid undue anticipation, allowing life's surprises to unfold naturally.

"A stitch in time saves nine." 

This adage stresses the importance of taking action promptly to prevent bigger problems down the road. It highlights the value of being proactive and addressing issues before they escalate, ultimately saving us from a more significant headache later on.

Adages hold a power that goes beyond their surface meaning. They have the ability to shape our thoughts, influence our behaviors, and make a lasting impact on our consciousness. 

It's fascinating to consider how these concise forms of wisdom are so commonly used. As the saying goes, "All good things come in small packages." And indeed, adages are a perfect example of this.

Up Next

What is a Metaphor?

Adages showcase the enduring power of language and wisdom. Now, let's dive into the captivating realm of metaphors - intriguing linguistic tools that breathe life into our expressions and literary works. 

Up Next: What is a Metaphor? →
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  • Kyle DeGuzman graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Science in Television, Film, & New Media. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado spending his time writing, filmmaking, and traveling.

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