1520s, "concise statement of a principle" (especially in reference to the "Aphorisms of Hippocrates"), from French aphorisme (corrected from Old French aufforisme, 14c.), from Late Latin aphorismus, from Greek aphorismos "definition; short, pithy sentence," from aphorizein "to mark off, divide," from apo "from" (see apo-) + horizein "to bound" (see horizon).
The general sense of "short, pithy statement containing a truth of general import" (e.g. "life is short, and art is long") is from 1580s in English. Distinguished from an axiom, which is a statement of self-evident truth; an epigram is like an aphorism, but lacking in general import. Maxim and saying can be used as synonyms for aphorism, but maxims tend to be practical than aphorisms, and sayings tend to be more commonplace and have an author's name attached.
[F]or aphorisms, except they should be ridiculous, cannot be made but of the pith and heart of sciences ; for discourse of illustration is cut off ; recitals of examples are cut off ; discourse of connexion and order is cut off ; descriptions of practice are cut off. So there remaineth nothing to fill the aphorisms but some good quantity of observation : and therefore no man can suffice, nor in reason will attempt, to write aphorisms, but he that is sound and grounded. [Francis Bacon, "The Advancement of Learning," 1605]
"of the nature of an aphorism," 1753, from Latinized form of Greek aphoristikos, from aphorismos "definition, pithy sentence" (see aphorism). Related: Aphoristically (1650s). Aphorismic "having the form of an aphorism" is from 1794.
"short, pithy, instructive saying," 1550s, from Greek apophthegma "terse, pointed saying," literally "something clearly spoken," from apophthengesthai "to speak one's opinion plainly," from apo "from" (see apo-) + phthengesthai "to utter" (see diphthong). See aphorism for nuances of usage. The spelling apophthegm, restored by Johnson, is "now more frequent in England," according to OED (1989). Related: Apothegmatic.
"restore to order," 1911, from un- (2) "reverse, opposite of" + scramble (v.). The original use is in a quip attributed to U.S. financier J.P. Morgan (1837-1913) about the impossibility of unscrambling an omelet.
Mr. Morgan is credited with the aphorism that the recent trust decisions are like an order to a cook to "unscramble" the eggs which have just been prepared. [Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science, January 1912]
Related: Unscrambled; unscrambling.
c. 1200, "doctrine, authoritative teaching; an authoritative pronouncement," from Old French sentence "judgment, decision; meaning; aphorism, maxim; statement of authority" (12c.) and directly from Latin sententia "thought, way of thinking, opinion; judgment, decision," also "a thought expressed; aphorism, saying," an irregular (dissimilated) formation from sentientem, present participle of sentire "be of opinion, feel, perceive" (see sense (n.)). The meaning path is perhaps "way of perceiving in the mind" to "opinion" to "decision, judgment."
It is attested from early 14c. as "judgment rendered by God, or by one in authority;" also in the specific legal sense "a verdict, decision in a court." It is recorded from late 14c. as "understanding, wisdom; edifying subject matter," a sense obsolete but frequent in Chaucer.
It is attested from late 14c. as "subject matter or content of a letter, book, speech, etc.," and also was used in reference to a passage in a written work. The sense of "grammatically complete statement in words" is attested from mid-15c. ("meaning," then "meaning expressed in words.")
A sentence is a sound in itself on which other sounds called words may be strung. You may string words together without a sentence-sound to string them on just as you may tie clothes together by the sleeves and stretch them without a clothes line between two trees, but — it is bad for the clothes. [Robert Frost, letter to John T. Bartlett, Feb. 22, 1914]
That sentences in Authors, like haires in an horse-taile, concurre in one root of beauty and strength, but being pluckt out one by one, serve onely for springes and snares. [Donne]