Guide to Literary Terms

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What is the definition of aphorism?

The definition of aphorism is a concise and poignant saying that conveys a statement of truth.


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Last Updated May 26, 2023.

An aphorism is a pithy saying that conveys a statement of truth.


Aphorism derives from the Greek word aphorizein, meaning “to define,” a word formed from apo (“from”) and horizein (“to bound”). Horizein originates from the Greek horos, meaning “boundary.”


The word aphorism was originally a medical term, first used by Hippocrates in its Greek form aphorismos as the title of his book on how to recognize, diagnose, and cure diseases.


The introduction to Hippocrates’s "Aphorisms" opens with an example of an aporism:

“Life is short, and Art long; the crisis fleeting; experience perilous, and decision difficult.”

see: epigramproverb

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