Definitions of Proverbs

Definition of a Proverb

Microsoft Encarta 99 Encyclopedia. 1993-1998 provide an extended definition:- Proverb, a concise statement, in general use, expressing commonly held beliefs and received ideas.

Most proverbs are rooted in folklore and have been preserved by oral tradition. An example of such commonplace wisdom is "A rolling stone gathers no moss".

Often the same accepted truths are found in proverbs from different cultures and languages worldwide. The Bible has provided a large number of proverbs, for example, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth", which has an African equivalent in "A goat's hide buys a goat hide, and a gourd, a gourd". Graham Paris (UK) writes "My Cornish grandmother, had a quaint expression, "Hark at the pot calling the brandy smutty". This is a more Cornish way of referring to a pot calling the kettle black. A brandy is the iron stand that was used to put pots on to cook in an open fire."

Some proverbs have literary origins, as in the case of the adaptation by Benjamin Franklin of Aesop's proverb "The gods help them that help themselves". Others may have derived from popular usage, such as "Money is the root of all evil" from the biblical saying "The love of money is the root of all evil" or from superstitions, such as "Marry in May, repent always", or weather lore, such as "Rain before seven, fine before eleven".

Obsolete customs have also generated proverbs, such as "If the cap fits, wear it", referring to the medieval fool's cap.