c. 1300, in boke of Prouerbyys, the Old Testament work, from Old French proverbe (12c.) and directly from Latin proverbium "a common saying, old adage, maxim," literally "words put forward," from pro "forth" (from PIE root *per- (1) "forward") + verbum "word" (see verb). Hence, in the Scriptural sense, "an enigmatical utterance; a mysterious or oracular saying that requires interpretation."
Used generally from c. 1300 in reference to native sayings, "short pithy sentence, often repeated colloquially, expressing a well-known truth or a common fact ascertained by experience or observation; a popular saying which briefly and forcibly expresses some practical precept; an adage; a wise saw: often set forth in the guise of metaphor and in the form of rime, and sometimes alliterative" [Century Dictionary].
By late 14c. as "byword, reproach, object of scorn." The Book of Proverbs in Old English was cwidboc, from cwide "speech, saying, proverb, homily," related to cwiddian "to talk, speak, say, discuss;" cwiddung "speech, saying, report."
updated on December 27, 2020