Adage: Definition, Differences, and Examples

An adage is a concise, memorable saying grounded in truth, widely accepted as a universal fact. These enduring sayings convey general life truths and gain popularity through repeated usage over time. They often encapsulate common observations and may carry hidden meanings. While some people use the terms "adage," "proverb," and "idiom" interchangeably, there are distinctions among them.

Difference Between Adage, Proverb, and Idiom

Adages represent sayings conveying deep truths. A proverb, on the other hand, is rooted in practical wisdom and is often tested over generations. Proverbs can be considered a subset of adages, as they too express universal truths. Proverbs typically offer both wisdom and practical advice.

An adage is a universally accepted truth, while a proverb provides a universal truth along with a piece of advice. While adages apply broadly to various contexts, proverbs have a more traditional and specific nature.

Additionally, both adages and proverbs are complete sentences or phrases, whereas an idiom is a form of speech with meanings that may not be deduced from the individual words. Idioms are context-specific and may lose meaning when removed from their original context.

Common Adages

  • "Opposites attract."
  • "Birds of a Feather Flock Together."
  • "The clothes make the man."
  • "The early bird gets the worm."
  • "A drowning man catches at a straw."
  • "Better safe than sorry."
  • "Seek and you will find."
  • "Practice makes a man perfect."
  • "There is something wrong at the bottom."
  • "A hungry man is an angry man."

Using Adages in Sentences

Here are some examples of using adages in sentences:

  • Although I can tolerate hunger for much longer, you know a hungry man is an angry man.
  • Some of us do not understand, but it dawns upon us later that it is better safe than sorry.
  • If you get up early in the morning, you feel that you have completed various tasks. It is a universal truth that the early bird catches the worm.
  • The person who does not try is equal to the one who tries, for if you seek, you will find is a common phenomenon.

Examples of Adages from Literature

Many renowned authors have incorporated adages into their works:

Example #1: Alfred Lord Tennyson's "In Memoriam"

"Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all."

In these lines, Tennyson advises that experiencing love, even if lost, is better than never having loved, reflecting a universal truth.

Example #2: William Shakespeare's "As You Like It"

"All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages."

Shakespeare's famous adage likens life to a theatrical performance, describing the seven stages of human existence.

Example #3: Aesop's Fables

“Things are not always what they seem.” (From "The Bee-Keeper and the Bees)
“Appearances often are deceiving.” (From "The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing")
“Slow and steady wins the race.” (From "The Tortoise and the Hare")

Aesop's fables are rich sources of adages that impart moral lessons through relatable and memorable sayings.

Example #4: Benjamin Franklin's "Poor Richard’s Almanack"

“Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
“Eat to live, and not live to eat.”
“To err is human, to repent divine; to persist devilish.”
“Well done is better than well said.”
“A penny saved is a penny earned.”

Benjamin Franklin's almanac is known for its witty adages, offering practical wisdom and guidance on various aspects of life.

Function of Adages

Adages serve multiple functions in literature, advertising, and films. Firstly, they raise awareness by conveying fundamental life truths. Secondly, adages are highly versatile and applicable in various situations, imparting wisdom. These timeless sayings often provide moral lessons and leave a lasting impact on readers and listeners. Authors use adages to make their works concise, effective, and enriched with universal wisdom.

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