I'm trying to find a word referring to an idiom that gives advice (e.g. "Fake it till you make it"). "Nugget of wisdom" is kind of what I'm looking for, but I want a single word, not another idiom.

Edit: I should specify that I'm looking for a word that describes "Fake it till you make it".

  • 1
    Certainly "parable" fits a brief story illustrating some lesson, but I'm not thinking of anything for just a phrase that instructs.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 2:59
  • Playing crosswords? :-) Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 3:01
  • Nope. Writing an English essay. I should clarify that I'm looking for something to describe "Fake it till you make it"
    – Rob Rose
    Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 3:05
  • Maybe Yodaisms?
    – bib
    Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 12:01
  • 1
    The answer is "proverb" - it's astounding nobody has pointed this out.
    – Fattie
    Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 12:04

5 Answers 5


Pithy statements that give advice, e.g. "Fake it till you make it" (not a particularly good one, however...) are called aphorisms:

A tersely phrased statement of a truth or opinion; an adage.

They are also known as adages, maxims, axioms, etc.

Common aphorisms are easy to recognize, and they aren't necessarily idioms:

  • Actions speak louder than words.
  • To err is human, to forgive divine.
  • Necessity is the mother of invention.
  • Don't put all your eggs in the same basket.
  • People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

The last two are idioms. However, Fake it 'til you make it is not.

  • 1
    An aphorism is "a pithy observation which contains a general truth." the OP is asking "what is an aphorism which gives advice". This is, of course, a proverb.
    – Fattie
    Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 12:04

There seem to be lots of words in English for accepted wisdom expressed pithily in the form of a particular situation: adage, proverb, aphorism, saw, saying, etc. Of these, 'adage' seems to express most prominently the advisory part which the questioner wants. The OED defn is: "A traditional maxim; a proverb or short statement expressing a general truth". I use 'adage' when I agree with the wisdom expressed, and 'aphorism' or 'proverb' or 'saw' or 'saying' when I am neutral about the truth of the wisdom expressed.

  • The answer (when it gives advice) is a proverb. An adage is more an ingenious, wise observation (like "out of sight, out of mind"). The example given is of course a proverb.
    – Fattie
    Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 12:06
  • adage
  • truism
  • saying
  • mantra
  • maxim
  • kernel
  • nugget
  • old chestnut

When the advice comes in the form of overused (and, not particularly pertinent adages,) they (the adages) are called platitudes.


'Punt' denotes a plan, albeit an iffy one. It's used as a verb.

To 'google' = to research. To 'punt' = to 'go with that plan'.

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