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[af-uh-riz-uh m] /ˈæf əˌrɪz əm/
a terse saying embodying a general truth, or astute observation, as “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Lord Acton).
1520-30; French aphorisme < Late Latin aphorismus < Greek aphorismós definition, equivalent to aphor(ízein) to define (see aphorize) + -ismos -ism
Related forms
aphorismic, aphorismatic
[af-uh-riz-mat-ik] /ˌæf ə rɪzˈmæt ɪk/ (Show IPA),
Can be confused
adage, aphorism, apothegm, axiom, maxim, proverb. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for aphorisms
  • The new administrators' orientation presented us with a lot of aphorisms as well.
  • Our capacity to interpret aphorisms comes from the angular gyrus.
  • But many writers don't write aphoristically, and many readers don't read for aphorisms.
  • Popular psychology has become a fixture in our society, and its aphorisms, truths and half-truths permeate our everyday existence.
  • Record selected quotations and aphorisms of personal significance that relate to unit themes and big ideas.
British Dictionary definitions for aphorisms


a short pithy saying expressing a general truth; maxim
Derived Forms
aphorist, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Late Latin aphorismus, from Greek aphorismos definition, from aphorizein to define, set limits to, from horos boundary
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for aphorisms



1520s (especially in reference to the "Aphorisms of Hippocrates"), from Middle French aphorisme (14c., aufforisme), from Late Latin aphorismus, from Greek aphorismos "definition, pithy sentence," from aphorizein "to mark off, divide," from apo- "from" (see apo-) + horizein "to bound" (see horizon).

An aphorism is a short, pithy statement containing a truth of general import; an axiom is a statement of self-evident truth; a theorem is a demonstrable proposition in science or mathematics; an epigram is like an aphorism, but lacking in general import. Maxim and saying can be used as synonyms for aphorism.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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aphorisms in Culture
aphorism [(af-uh-riz-uhm)]

A concise and often witty statement of wisdom or opinion, such as “Children should be seen and not heard,” or “People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.”

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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