What is an Adage? Definition, Examples of Adages in Literature

Adage definition: An adage is a short saying that is considered true by the majority of people.

What is an Adage?

What does adage mean? An adage is a short, memorable saying that is considered to be true by the majority of people. These sayings may give wisdom about life and as their usage increases they are presumed to display a universal truth.    

Here are some common adages:

  • Better safe than sorry.
    • This adage is used to convey the conventional wisdom that in some situations risk taking is not the optimal choice.
  • Curiosity killed the cat.
    • This adage conveys the idea that excessive snooping can be dangerous.
  • Appearances often are deceiving.
    • This adage conveys that notion that the way something looks may not hold the entire `truth that may be arrived at by digging deeper.

What is the Difference Between Adage and Proverb?

Adage vs. Proverb: Both adages and proverbs are short sayings that are popular and well known. A proverb may also be considered an adage if it is a popular saying that is directed toward giving us advice about life.

Example of Proverb:

  • Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
    • In this saying, the advice being given is to go to bed early and seize the day earlier in order to achieve optimum success in life.

The Function of Adages

Adages are important because they reveal a strong message through a simple phrase. These phrases are universally understood, and this makes the message easier to convey to a large audience. It is important for writers to effectively convey the message; therefore, including adages can be useful in order to achieve this goal.

Examples of Adages in Literature

In William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet says, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” This line has become a well-known adage that people universally understand as a comment regarding the lack of importance titles hold in comparison to the properties of a person or object.

The adage in Aesop’s The Hare and the Tortoise would be “slow and steady wins the race.” This popular message is widely referred to as a truth regarding the importance of taking your time and reinforcing the importance of focusing on the goal.

Summary: What Are Adages?

Define adages: Adages are short sayings that offer wisdom that is universally understood.

Because of the popularity they gain through their repetition, they gain a consensus among society that they hold a universal truth to them. Adages can be found in literature as well as media such as movies and commercials.

Final Example:

In the film Forrest Gump, the phrase “Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re gonna get” can be considered an adage.

This phrase gained popularity through the movie, and through this popularity, it can now be considered an adage.