25 Synonyms for “Expression”

By Mark Nichol

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Many words can be employed to refer to an expression. Most, as you’ll see, are true synonyms of one or more others, but a few have specific (and sometimes unique) connotations. Here are the synonyms and their senses:

1. Adage (from the Latin adagium, “proverb”) — An often metaphorical observation: “The early bird gets the worm.”

2. Aphorism (from the Greek aphorismos, “definition”) — A principle concisely stated: “Less is more.”

3. Apothegm (from Greek apophthegma, derived from apophthengesthai, “to speak out”) — An instructive comment: “Cleanliness is next to godliness.”

4. Banality (from the French banal, “commonplace”) — A trite comment: “You get what you pay for.”

5. Bromide (from the word for a compound, made in part from the element bromine, used as a sedative) — A hackneyed statement: “We have to work together.”

6. Byword — A proverb, or a frequently used word or phrase: “You can get more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

7. Chestnut (from the Greek kastanea, “chestnut”) — A stale saying or story: “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

8. Cliché (from the French word for “stereotype”) — An overly familiar expression: “Keep the faith” (or an overdone theme, like moviedom’s manic pixie dream girl).

9. Commonplace (from the Latin locus communis, “widely applicable argument”) — An obvious but often tiresome or unfortunate comment: “What goes around comes around” (or a trite phenomena, such as drivers sending text messages).

10. Epigram (from the Greek epigramma, derived from epigraphein, “to write on”) — A concise and wise and/or clever saying: Time is money.”

11. Homily (from the Latin homilia, “conversation”) — a catchphrase (or sermon) meant to inspire: “To err is human; to forgive divine.”

12. Maxim (from the Latin maxima, the superlative of magnus, “large”) — A rule or principle: “A watched pot never boils.”

13. Moral (from the Latin moralis, “custom”) — The lesson of an instructive story: “Be satisfied with what you have.”

14. Motto (from the Latin muttire, “mutter”) — A statement of a principle: “Be prepared.”

15. Platitude (from the French plat, “dull”) — A banal remark: “Blondes have more fun.”

16. Precept (from the Latin praeceptum, “something taken before”) — A statement of a rule: “Thou shalt not kill.”

17. Principle (from the Latin principium, “beginning”) — A law or rule of conduct: “It is better to give than to receive.”

18. Proverb (from the Latin proverbium, from pro-, “for” or “to,” and verbum, “word”) — A direct synonym for adage, byword, epigram, and maxim.

19. Saw (from the Old English sagu, “discourse”) — A maxim or proverb, often referred to with some condescension: “You’ve heard that old saw about how to get healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

20. Saying — An adage: “Let sleeping dogs lie.”

21. Sententia (from the Latin word for “feeling, opinion”) — A brief expression of a principle: “To thine own self be true.”

22. Shibboleth (from the Hebrew word for “stream,” described in the Bible as a word used, by its pronunciation, to distinguish speakers of one region for another) — A widely held belief: “Time heals all wounds.”

23. Slogan (from Scottish Gaelic sluagh-ghairm, “war cry”) — A statement of a position or goal: “Say what you mean, and mean what you say” (or an advertising statement: “We will not be undersold!”).

24. Trope (from Latin tropos, “turn,” “way,” “manner,” “style”) — A common figure of speech: “Not that there’s anything wrong with that” (or a trite theme, as the climactic duel in a western movie).

25. Truism — An obvious truth: “You can’t win them all.”

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3 Responses to “25 Synonyms for “Expression””

  • Ellie Presner

    And: “axiom”…

  • Mark Nichol


    You know the truism “Just when you think you’ve remembered everything . . .” — or is that a maxim?

  • James White

    Let’s not forget Ebolalia which include grammatically useless words like -Ugh, Pssst, ooh Et Cetera.

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