Actions Speak Louder than Words Meaning
Definition: What you do has a stronger impact on people than what you say.
Oftentimes, people will say one thing and do another; the phrase actions speak louder than words means that people are more likely to believe what you do rather than what you say, be there is a difference between the two.
It is much easier to lie with your words than with your actions because what you do more strongly correlates with what you want and what you believe. You can say anything without believing strongly in it.
It is an important axiom for parents, who must remember that they lead by example. Children are more prone to feel allowed to do what the parent does, even if the parent tells them not to do it.
Origin of Actions Speak Louder than Words
The proverb is more than several hundred years old. Some of the first expressions of it are found in the Bible, including this verse in the book of John, which stresses that saying you love someone is not the same as doing things for them,
My little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. -1 John 3:18
In the 1500s, the French writer Michel de Montaigne said,
Saying is one thing and doing is another.
And later, in 1628, the Englishman J. Pym made a speech where he reworded the phrase as
A word spoken in season is like an Apple of Gold set in Pictures of Silver, and actions are more precious than words.
Finally, in 1736, we see the current incarnation of the phrase in a letter titled “Melancholy State of Province” in Colonial Currency by A.M. Davis,
Actions speak louder than words, and are more to be regarded.
President Abraham Lincoln confirms the phrase is in the vernacular by 1856 writing,
“Actions speak louder than words” is the maxim; and, if true, the South now distinctly says to the North, “Give us the measures, and you take the men.”
Example of Actions Speak Louder than Words
In the modern day, this phrase is used to get people’s actions to line up with their words.
For example, consider this dialogue between a father and his child,
Child: Dad, I promise I’ll be on time for dinner, and I’ll do my homework as soon as I get it.
Father: Well, that sounds great, but actions speak louder than words. I’ll believe it when I see it.
It is also a common piece of warning in modern relationships when someone’s partner consistently says that he loves her but doesn’t back it up with his actions. The recipient of these words is often warned to pay attention to the actions of his or her partner to find the truth of how he or she feel.
Consider the following dialogue,
Samantha: He tells me he loves me every day. But he didn’t do anything for my birthday, and he still doesn’t want to meet my parents.
Claire: Careful, actions speak louder than words.
- “Going into games it is about action rather than words,” he said. “When you speak you can sometimes say things that can add fuel to the fire or underestimate a game- we’re not going to underestimate it.” –London News Online
- Hanabusa, who says she is probably the only member of Congress who has had a relative killed in the atomic bombing, believes an apology in words is not necessary between the United States and Japan since actions speak louder. –The Asahi Shimbun
The proverb actions speak louder than words reminds us that what we do has more significance than what we say.