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An adage is a saying. It is a short statement that expresses a perceived truth.

Stickler alert: If you hate being mocked by the sticklers among us, note that adage and proverb are not synonymous in many people’s books. This is true despite them being synonymous in many dictionaries and certainly in common usage.

According to this particular brand of stickler, proverbs form a subset of adages. According to them, all proverbs are adages, but not all adages are proverbs. They claim that to be a proverb the saying must be in the Old Testament’s Book of Proverbs or in another religion’s equivalent scripture. Most of these sticklers will also accept as a proverb an adage that paraphrases or is generally derived from an biblical proverb.

That may be so, but neither of the two dictionaries I looked at mention anything about the Book of Proverbs in their entries for the word proverb. I’ll probably have more to say about that if and when I reach the entry for proverb in this project. Until then, for what it’s worth, you have my permission to use the words adage and proverb interchangeably. Tell the sticklers to stick it.

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