Phrases like:

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

No use crying over spilt milk.

Don't put all of your eggs in one basket.

I feel like I'm blanking here.

I googled one, and I get proverb.

But I don't feel like I hear that in common use.

Is there another word that describes such a phrase? I feel like idiom doesn't actually fit, as an idiom according to Merriam-Webster:

an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but that has a separate meaning of its own

  • Related: english.stackexchange.com/q/17375/3306
    – rajah9
    Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 2:00
  • 1
    Did you look up proverb in a thesaurus? A quick look at usage frequency suggests saying is used as much as all others combined. Saw also has a very close fit to your connotation. But I don't think it is as common or widespread as it used to be.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 2:16

1 Answer 1



a terse saying embodying a general truth, or astute observation, as “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Lord Acton)

Source: Merriam-Webster

  • Very true, but I think 'proverb' is more common. I'm sure that there are many people who know 'proverb' but don't know 'aphorism'. Many people would call it a 'saying' as in "arrange these words into a well-known phrase or saying".
    – BoldBen
    Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 5:25
  • @BoldBen - I wouldn't call Lord Acton's statement a proverb, as it is attributed to one man, but I would call the traditional sayings mentioned by the OP proverbs. Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 7:55
  • I thought of proverb as well, but the OP seems to have specifically disallowed it. As linked in my comment on the question, maxim and saying are also in the running.
    – rajah9
    Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 19:28
  • Also: adage, saw, folk wisdom, or cliche.
    – Pete
    Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 21:25
  • @Pete agreed - how about an answer with these?
    – rajah9
    Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 11:22

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