Rhetorical Devices: Proverb

A proverb is a widely known expression that typically conveys a moral or wise message. In many cultures, proverbs are handed down through generations are often used to provide wise counsel, to offer advice, and to give insight into the human condition. Though each culture has its own unique proverbs, they share many similarities in how they are used and what they teach.

Sometimes an orator will choose to use a proverb because it is familiar and significant to their audience. They can also be powerful tools for persuasion because they evoke an emotional response in listeners.


The cheapest is always the most expensive. German proverb

The path is made by walking. African proverb

A picture is worth a thousand words. English proverb

The early bird catches the work. English proverb

A good word never broke a tooth. Irish proverb
WWS rhetorical device explainer card on proverb
The wise saying, "The pen is mightier than the sword". It is true. The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them. This is why they killed 14 innocent students in the recent attack in Quetta. And that is why they kill female teachers. Malala Yousafzai, "UN Speech on Youth Education" (12 July 2013)

Late this evening, our convention will end with a benediction. As we bow in reverence, remember the words of the old proverb, "When you pray, move your feet". And then let us leave here tonight and take that message of hope from Denver to every corner of our land, and do everything we can to serve our nation, our world, and our children and their future, by electing Barack Obama President of the United States of America. Al Gore, "2008 Democratic National Convention Speech" (28 August 2008)

To all here who have worked so hard to make this vision a reality: Thank you, and congratulations -- above all to Ambassadors Glitman and Obukhov. To quote another Russian proverb -- as you can see, I'm becoming quite an expert in Russian proverbs: "The harvest comes more from sweat than from the dew."
So, I'm going to propose to General Secretary Gorbachev that we issue one last instruction to you: Get some well-deserved rest. Ronald Reagan, "Remarks During the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty Signing" (8 December 1987)

There is a Chinese proverb: "Consider the past, and you shall know the future." Surely, we have known setbacks and challenges over the last 30 years. Our relationship has not been without disagreement and difficulty. But the notion that we must be adversaries is not predestined -- not when we consider the past. Indeed, because of our cooperation, both the United States and China are more prosperous and more secure. Barack Obama, "Shanghai Town Hall With Future Chinese Leaders" (16 November 2009)

Further reading

  • Wikipedia: Proverb Visit
  • Silva Rhetoricæ: The Forest of Rhetoric Visit
  • Khurana, Simran: 47 of the Most Popular Proverbs From Around the World, ThoughtCo Visit
  • Grammarly: Proverbs Visit