Aphorism
Overview
 
An aphorism is an original thought, spoken or written in a laconic and memorable form.

The term was first used in the Aphorisms of Hippocrates
Hippocrates
Hippocrates of Cos or Hippokrates of Kos was an ancient Greek physician of the Age of Pericles , and is considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine...

. The oft-cited first sentence of this work (see Ars longa, vita brevis
Ars longa, vita brevis
Ars longa, vita brevis are the first two lines of a Latin translation of an aphorism by Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates. The words are commonly translated in English as art is long, life is short. The full text in Latin is:...

) is:
The term was later applied to maxims of physical science, then statements of all kinds of philosophical, moral, or literary principles. In modern usage an aphorism is generally understood to be a concise statement containing a subjective truth
Truth
Truth has a variety of meanings, such as the state of being in accord with fact or reality. It can also mean having fidelity to an original or to a standard or ideal. In a common usage, it also means constancy or sincerity in action or character...

 or observation cleverly and pithily written.
Aphoristic collections, sometimes known as wisdom literature
Wisdom literature
Wisdom literature is the genre of literature common in the Ancient Near East. This genre is characterized by sayings of wisdom intended to teach about divinity and about virtue...

, have a prominent place in the canons of several ancient societies, such as the Sutra
Sutra
Sūtra is an aphorism or a collection of such aphorisms in the form of a manual. Literally it means a thread or line that holds things together and is derived from the verbal root siv-, meaning to sew , as does the medical term...

 literature of India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, the Biblical Ecclesiastes
Ecclesiastes
The Book of Ecclesiastes, called , is a book of the Hebrew Bible. The English name derives from the Greek translation of the Hebrew title.The main speaker in the book, identified by the name or title Qoheleth , introduces himself as "son of David, king in Jerusalem." The work consists of personal...

, Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

ic Hadith
Hadith
The term Hadīth is used to denote a saying or an act or tacit approval or criticism ascribed either validly or invalidly to the Islamic prophet Muhammad....

, Hesiod
Hesiod
Hesiod was a Greek oral poet generally thought by scholars to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer. His is the first European poetry in which the poet regards himself as a topic, an individual with a distinctive role to play. Ancient authors credited him and...

's Works and Days, or Epictetus
Epictetus
Epictetus was a Greek sage and Stoic philosopher. He was born a slave at Hierapolis, Phrygia , and lived in Rome until banishment when he went to Nicopolis in northwestern Greece where he lived the rest of his life. His teachings were noted down and published by his pupil Arrian in his Discourses...

' Handbook.
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
An aphorism is an original thought, spoken or written in a laconic and memorable form.

The term was first used in the Aphorisms of Hippocrates
Hippocrates
Hippocrates of Cos or Hippokrates of Kos was an ancient Greek physician of the Age of Pericles , and is considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine...

. The oft-cited first sentence of this work (see Ars longa, vita brevis
Ars longa, vita brevis
Ars longa, vita brevis are the first two lines of a Latin translation of an aphorism by Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates. The words are commonly translated in English as art is long, life is short. The full text in Latin is:...

) is:
The term was later applied to maxims of physical science, then statements of all kinds of philosophical, moral, or literary principles. In modern usage an aphorism is generally understood to be a concise statement containing a subjective truth
Truth
Truth has a variety of meanings, such as the state of being in accord with fact or reality. It can also mean having fidelity to an original or to a standard or ideal. In a common usage, it also means constancy or sincerity in action or character...

 or observation cleverly and pithily written.

Literature

Aphoristic collections, sometimes known as wisdom literature
Wisdom literature
Wisdom literature is the genre of literature common in the Ancient Near East. This genre is characterized by sayings of wisdom intended to teach about divinity and about virtue...

, have a prominent place in the canons of several ancient societies, such as the Sutra
Sutra
Sūtra is an aphorism or a collection of such aphorisms in the form of a manual. Literally it means a thread or line that holds things together and is derived from the verbal root siv-, meaning to sew , as does the medical term...

 literature of India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, the Biblical Ecclesiastes
Ecclesiastes
The Book of Ecclesiastes, called , is a book of the Hebrew Bible. The English name derives from the Greek translation of the Hebrew title.The main speaker in the book, identified by the name or title Qoheleth , introduces himself as "son of David, king in Jerusalem." The work consists of personal...

, Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

ic Hadith
Hadith
The term Hadīth is used to denote a saying or an act or tacit approval or criticism ascribed either validly or invalidly to the Islamic prophet Muhammad....

, Hesiod
Hesiod
Hesiod was a Greek oral poet generally thought by scholars to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer. His is the first European poetry in which the poet regards himself as a topic, an individual with a distinctive role to play. Ancient authors credited him and...

's Works and Days, or Epictetus
Epictetus
Epictetus was a Greek sage and Stoic philosopher. He was born a slave at Hierapolis, Phrygia , and lived in Rome until banishment when he went to Nicopolis in northwestern Greece where he lived the rest of his life. His teachings were noted down and published by his pupil Arrian in his Discourses...

' Handbook. Aphoristic collections also make up an important part of the work of some modern authors, such as Josemaría Escrivá (compiled from other spiritual authors), Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
Georg Christoph Lichtenberg was a German scientist, satirist and Anglophile. As a scientist, he was the first to hold a professorship explicitly dedicated to experimental physics in Germany...

, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer, pictorial artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and polymath. He is considered the supreme genius of modern German literature. His works span the fields of poetry, drama, prose, philosophy, and science. His Faust has been called the greatest long...

, Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity. At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which examined the four separate manifestations of reason in the phenomenal...

, Søren Kierkegaard
Søren Kierkegaard
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish Christian philosopher, theologian and religious author. He was a critic of idealist intellectuals and philosophers of his time, such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel...

, Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist...

, Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka was a culturally influential German-language author of short stories and novels. Contemporary critics and academics, including Vladimir Nabokov, regard Kafka as one of the best writers of the 20th century...

, Karl Kraus
Karl Kraus
Karl Kraus was an Austrian writer and journalist, known as a satirist, essayist, aphorist, playwright and poet. He is regarded as one of the foremost German-language satirists of the 20th century, especially for his witty criticism of the press, German culture, and German and Austrian...

, Montaigne
Michel de Montaigne
Lord Michel Eyquem de Montaigne , February 28, 1533 – September 13, 1592, was one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance, known for popularising the essay as a literary genre and is popularly thought of as the father of Modern Skepticism...

, La Rouchefoucauld
François de La Rochefoucauld (writer)
François VI, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Prince de Marcillac was a noted French author of maxims and memoirs. The view of human conduct his writings describe has been summed up by the words "everything is reducible to the motive of self-interest", though the term "gently cynical" has also been applied...

, Stanislaw Jerzy Lec
Stanislaw Jerzy Lec
Stanisław Jerzy Lec was a poet and aphorist of Polish and Jewish noble origin...

, Andrzej Majewski
Andrzej Majewski
Andrzej Majewski, , is a Polish aphorist, writer, columnist and photographer. He graduated from The Economics Academy of Wrocław...

, Mikhail Turovsky
Mikhail Turovsky
Mikhail Turovsky is an American artist-painter, and writer-aphorist, resident in New York since 1979.-Early life and education:Mikhail Turovsky was born in 1933 in Kiev. During the Second World War, he was evacuated to Samarkand with his mother and an older brother...

, Antonio Porchia
Antonio Porchia
Antonio Porchia was an Argentinian poet. He was born in Conflenti but, after the death of his father in 1900, moved to Argentina. He wrote a Spanish book entitled Voces , a book of aphorisms. It has since been translated into Italian and into English , French, and German...

, Celia Green
Celia Green
Celia Elizabeth Green is a British writer on philosophical skepticism, twentieth-century thought, and psychology.- Biography :...

, Robert A. Heinlein
Robert A. Heinlein
Robert Anson Heinlein was an American science fiction writer. Often called the "dean of science fiction writers", he was one of the most influential and controversial authors of the genre. He set a standard for science and engineering plausibility and helped to raise the genre's standards of...

, Blaise Pascal
Blaise Pascal
Blaise Pascal , was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Catholic philosopher. He was a child prodigy who was educated by his father, a tax collector in Rouen...

, E. M. Cioran and Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish writer and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s...

. A 1559 oil–on–oak-panel painting, Netherlandish Proverbs
Netherlandish Proverbs
Netherlandish Proverbs is a 1559 oil-on-oak-panel painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder which depicts a land populated with literal renditions of Flemish proverbs of the day...

 (also called The Blue Cloak or The Topsy Turvy World) by Pieter Brueghel the Elder
Pieter Brueghel the Elder
Pieter Bruegel the Elder was a Flemish renaissance painter and printmaker known for his landscapes and peasant scenes . He is sometimes referred to as the "Peasant Bruegel" to distinguish him from other members of the Brueghel dynasty, but he is also the one generally meant when the context does...

, artfully depicts a land populated with literal renditions of Flemish aphorisms (proverb
Proverb
A proverb is a simple and concrete saying popularly known and repeated, which expresses a truth, based on common sense or the practical experience of humanity. They are often metaphorical. A proverb that describes a basic rule of conduct may also be known as a maxim...

s) of the day.

The aphoristic genre developed together with literacy, and after the invention of printing, aphorisms were collected and published in book form. The first noted published collection of aphorisms is Adagia
Adagia
Adagia is an annotated collection of Greek and Latin proverbs, compiled during the Renaissance by Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus. Erasmus' collection of proverbs is "one of the most monumental ... ever assembled" Adagia (adagium is the singular form and adagia is the plural) is an...

by Erasmus of Rotterdam. Other important early aphorists were Baltasar Gracián
Baltasar Gracián
Baltasar Gracián y Morales, SJ was a Spanish Jesuit and baroque prose writer. He was born in Belmonte, near Calatayud .-Biography:...

, François de La Rochefoucauld
François de La Rochefoucauld
François de La Rochefoucauld may be:* François de La Rochefoucauld , French author* François de La Rochefoucauld , French cardinal of the Catholic Church...

 and Blaise Pascal
Blaise Pascal
Blaise Pascal , was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Catholic philosopher. He was a child prodigy who was educated by his father, a tax collector in Rouen...

.

Two influential collections of aphorisms published in the 20th century were The Uncombed Thoughts by Stanislaw Jerzy Lec
Stanislaw Jerzy Lec
Stanisław Jerzy Lec was a poet and aphorist of Polish and Jewish noble origin...

 (in Polish), and Itch of Wisdom by Mikhail Turovsky
Mikhail Turovsky
Mikhail Turovsky is an American artist-painter, and writer-aphorist, resident in New York since 1979.-Early life and education:Mikhail Turovsky was born in 1933 in Kiev. During the Second World War, he was evacuated to Samarkand with his mother and an older brother...

 (in Russian and English).

Society

In many cultures, including Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson , often referred to as Dr. Johnson, was an English author who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer...

's England, many East
East Asia
East Asia or Eastern Asia is a subregion of Asia that can be defined in either geographical or cultural terms...

 and Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

n societies, and throughout the world, the ability to spontaneously produce aphoristic sayings at exactly the right moment is a key determinant of social status. Many societies have traditional sages or culture hero
Culture hero
A culture hero is a mythological hero specific to some group who changes the world through invention or discovery...

es to whom aphorisms are commonly attributed, such as the Seven Sages of Greece
Seven Sages of Greece
The Seven Sages or Seven Wise Men was the title given by ancient Greek tradition to seven early 6th century BC philosophers, statesmen and law-givers who were renowned in the following centuries for their wisdom.-The Seven Sages:Traditionally, each of the seven sages represents an aspect of worldly...

, Confucius
Confucius
Confucius , literally "Master Kong", was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher of the Spring and Autumn Period....

 or King Solomon.

Misquoted or misadvised aphorisms are frequently used as a source of humour; for instance, wordplays of aphorisms appear in the works of P. G. Wodehouse
P. G. Wodehouse
Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, KBE was an English humorist, whose body of work includes novels, short stories, plays, poems, song lyrics, and numerous pieces of journalism. He enjoyed enormous popular success during a career that lasted more than seventy years and his many writings continue to be...

, Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett
Sir Terence David John "Terry" Pratchett, OBE is an English novelist, known for his frequently comical work in the fantasy genre. He is best known for his popular and long-running Discworld series of comic fantasy novels...

 and Douglas Adams
Douglas Adams
Douglas Noel Adams was an English writer and dramatist. He is best known as the author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which started life in 1978 as a BBC radio comedy before developing into a "trilogy" of five books that sold over 15 million copies in his lifetime, a television...

. Aphorisms being misquoted by sports players, coaches, and commentators form the basis of Private Eye's
Private Eye
Private Eye is a fortnightly British satirical and current affairs magazine, edited by Ian Hislop.Since its first publication in 1961, Private Eye has been a prominent critic and lampooner of public figures and entities that it deemed guilty of any of the sins of incompetence, inefficiency,...

 Colemanballs
Colemanballs
Colemanballs is a term coined by Private Eye magazine to describe verbal gaffes perpetrated by sports commentators. The word Colemanballs probably borrows from Colemans Meatballs, once familiar in the UK and sold by the company ColemanNatural...

 section.

See also

  • Adage
    Adage
    An adage is a short but memorable saying which holds some important fact of experience that is considered true by many people, or that has gained some credibility through its long use....

  • Book of Proverbs
    Book of Proverbs
    The Book of Proverbs , commonly referred to simply as Proverbs, is a book of the Hebrew Bible.The original Hebrew title of the book of Proverbs is "Míshlê Shlomoh" . When translated into Greek and Latin, the title took on different forms. In the Greek Septuagint the title became "paroimai paroimiae"...

  • Chiasmus
    Chiasmus
    In rhetoric, chiasmus is the figure of speech in which two or more clauses are related to each other through a reversal of structures in order to make a larger point; that is, the clauses display inverted parallelism...

  • Cliché
    Cliché
    A cliché or cliche is an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has been overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel. In phraseology, the term has taken on a more technical meaning,...

  • Ecclesiastes
    Ecclesiastes
    The Book of Ecclesiastes, called , is a book of the Hebrew Bible. The English name derives from the Greek translation of the Hebrew title.The main speaker in the book, identified by the name or title Qoheleth , introduces himself as "son of David, king in Jerusalem." The work consists of personal...

  • Wisdom of Sirach
  • Epigram
    Epigram
    An epigram is a brief, interesting, usually memorable and sometimes surprising statement. Derived from the epigramma "inscription" from ἐπιγράφειν epigraphein "to write on inscribe", this literary device has been employed for over two millennia....

  • Gospel of Thomas
    Gospel of Thomas
    The Gospel According to Thomas, commonly shortened to the Gospel of Thomas, is a well preserved early Christian, non-canonical sayings-gospel discovered near Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in December 1945, in one of a group of books known as the Nag Hammadi library...

  • Greguería
    Greguería
    A greguería is a short statement, usually one sentence, in which the author expresses a philosophical, pragmatic, or humorous idea in a witty and original way. A greguería is roughly similar to an aphorism or a one-liner joke in comedy...

  • Maxim
  • Proverb
    Proverb
    A proverb is a simple and concrete saying popularly known and repeated, which expresses a truth, based on common sense or the practical experience of humanity. They are often metaphorical. A proverb that describes a basic rule of conduct may also be known as a maxim...

  • Pseudo-Phocylides
    Pseudo-Phocylides
    Pseudo-Phocylides is an apocryphal work claiming to have been written by Phocylides, a Greek philosopher of the 6th century. The text is noticeably Jewish, and depends on the Septuagint, although it does not make direct references to either the Hebrew Bible or Judaism...

  • Sūtra
    Sutra
    Sūtra is an aphorism or a collection of such aphorisms in the form of a manual. Literally it means a thread or line that holds things together and is derived from the verbal root siv-, meaning to sew , as does the medical term...

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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