An Introduction to Aphorism

Aphorism is a short, pointed sentence expressing a truth, preceptOpens in new window, maximOpens in new window, or adageOpens in new window.

Aphorisms are basically used to express maxims, proverbsOpens in new window or adages that offer advice. They may be time honored, e.g., “look before you leap,” or more contemporary, e.g., “love is fleeting, herpes is forever.” They flourished in worldly sectors — like: economicsOpens in new window, politicsOpens in new window, religionOpens in new window, scienceOpens in new window, as well as everyday life. We merely observe them on vehicle stickers, political slogans, and commercial advertisements.

Aphorism aphorizes a general truth – something that is presented as a whole and at once without logical deductionOpens in new window, reductionOpens in new window or inferenceOpens in new window.

expressions of aphorism
short and succinct expression of aphorisms

Aphorism is etymologically derived from the Greek word ‘aphorizo,’ meaning “definition”; in otherwords, it means “to separate, to set apart.” From it came the English word “horizon,” — that place in the distance that sets apart earth from sky.

Notable Examples of Aphorism

Aphorisms are naturally persuasive because they are short and succinct, easily remembered, and almost always contain truismsOpens in new window; and because they are short, they require far less explanation. Note the cited characteristics on the examples provided below:

  • “A stitch in time saves nine”
  • “It takes time to do a thing well”
  • “You have got to take the bad with the good”
  • “You reap what you sow”
  • “The old fountain trick works every time”
  • “Ask and it shall be given unto you”
  • “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Further Readings:
Bruce Mawhinney | Preaching with Freshness: Preaching With AphorismOpens in new window
Robert H Gass, John S Seiter | Persuasion: Aphorisms, Familiar Phrases, And Persuasion: That Rings a BellOpens in new window
James L. Bailey | Literary Forms in the New Testament: A Handbook | Aphorisms: Definition of the FormOpens in new window