What Is Aphorism?

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An aphorism is a short and pithy saying that expresses a profound concept or idea. Aphorisms may be formed using another literary device, such as juxtaposition, parallelism, or alliteration. Ben Franklin’s famous aphorism, “A penny saved is a penny earned,” for instance, relies on parallelism for its construction. However, there are no set rules for how to create an aphorism.

Hippocrates, the Greek physician, first used the term, writing a book called Aphorisms to express short statements about medicine. Aphorisms have played a key role in world literature since then.

How Do You Identify Aphorism in Writing?

There are many known compilations of aphorisms. Some examples are Ecclesiastes, in the Bible, the Sutras of India, and Confucius’s sayings. Friedrich Nietzsche and Johann von Goethe both wrote aphorisms, as did Ludwig Wittgenstein, the philosopher. Other aphorisms have been passed down through popular culture over the centuries, and the origin of them remains unknown.

Examples of Aphorism

Aphorism Example 1. “Brevity is the soul of wit.” — Shakespeare, Hamlet

Aphorism Example 2. “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” — Lao Tzu

Aphorism Example 3. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”

Aphorism Example 4. “A nod is as good as a wink to a blind man.” — old British saying

Aphorism Example 5. “Jack of all trades, master of none.” — This British saying has close equivalents in languages around the world.

Aphorism Example 6. “A man can be happy with any woman as long as he does not love her.” — Oscar Wilde

Aphorism Example 7. “Under peaceful conditions, a warlike man sets on himself.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

Aphorism Example 8. “In a world of one-eyed men, the two-eyed man is king.” — a Belizean expression