old wives' tale

a traditional belief, story, or idea that is often of a superstitious nature.


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World English Dictionary
old wives' tale
a belief, usually superstitious or erroneous, passed on by word of mouth as a piece of traditional wisdom

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

old wives' tale

A superstition, as in Toads cause warts? That's an old wives' tale. This expression was already known in ancient Greece, and a version in English was recorded in 1387. Despite invoking bigoted stereotypes of women and old people, it survives.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
For several decades, scientists have believed what the old wives' tale has always declared: that chicken soup is good for colds.
And that, according to a local old wives' tale, was a sure sign they were to be wed.
Eating carrots to improve eyesight is an old wives' tale that's off base.
When they made camp that night, they laid a rope all the way around it following an old wives' tale.
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