It is a purpose of a proverb to provoke thought, not limit it by specifying the interpretation. A proverb is wasted on one to whom it must be explained because the conviction of one's own heart concerning the meaning is what the proverb is designed to achieve. If one disagrees with the proverb, one must then wrestle with the conviction which is more challenging than arguing against what one has been told. A proverb may not be true in every sense but if it is not true in any sense then it lacks an essential quality of a proverb. Many proverbs are riddles or paradoxes; they are like code which not only the mind but the heart must unravel. An example of a proverb, or pair of proverbs by the greatest of proverb writers, King Solomon, is:
"Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou be like unto him.
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit."
The above proverbs give opposite directions, yet there is a sense in which each is true. To say more would rob the reader of the treasure found when an understanding is reached, perhaps a greater or different understanding than one which might have been suggested.

Prov"erb (?), n. [OE. proverbe, F. proverbe, from L. proverbium; pro before, for + verbum a word. See Verb.]

1.

An old and common saying; a phrase which is often repeated; especially, a sentence which briefly and forcibly expresses some practical truth, or the result of experience and observation; a maxim; a saw; an adage.

Chaucer. Bacon.

2.

A striking or paradoxical assertion; an obscure saying; an enigma; a parable.

His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. John xvi. 29.

3.

A familiar illustration; a subject of contemptuous reference.

Thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a by word, among all nations. Deut. xxviii. 37.

4.

A drama exemplifying a proverb.

Book of Proverbs, a canonical book of the Old Testament, containing a great variety of wise maxims.

Syn. -- Maxim; aphorism; apothegm; adage; saw.

 

© Webster 1913.


Prov"erb, v. t.

1.

To name in, or as, a proverb.

[R.]

Am I not sung and proverbed for a fool ? Milton.

2.

To provide with a proverb.

[R.]

I am proverbed with a grandsire phrase. Shak.

 

© Webster 1913.


Prov"erb, v. i.

To write or utter proverbs.

[R.]

 

© Webster 1913.

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