Adages and Proverbs: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Bethany Calderwood

Bethany has taught special education in grades PK-5 and has a master's degree in special education.

Adages and proverbs are figures of speech often found in literature and conversation. In this lesson you will learn the definition of adages and proverbs, where they come from, and some hints for interpreting them.

Surprising Sayings

When Nina was preparing to visit her cousin, Grandma told her to be careful because fish and visitors stink in three days. Nina told Grandma not to worry. She already packed her soap and deodorant. Grandma laughed and told Nina that what she said is an adage which means that just like fish get smelly after three days, people can also get tired of having visitors for more than three days!

What do these items have in common? They are objects mentioned in common adages!
adage images

What Is an Adage?

Grandma's saying is an adage. An adage is a short saying that expresses an idea that is commonly agreed on. Adages may be based on facts and come from a specific situation or job. Often they give advice. If you know the original context, it is easier to determine the meaning of the adage. Another word for adage is proverb.

Where Do Adages Come From?

Some adages are very old, coming from writers like Aesop who wrote fables in Greece over 2000 years ago. An example is ''Slow and steady wins the race.'' This adage comes from a story about a race between a turtle and a rabbit. The turtle moves more slowly than the rabbit, but wins the race because the rabbit keeps stopping to do other things. If you know this story, you know that this saying means consistent performance leads to success.

Some come from American history, written by people like Benjamin Franklin. One of his proverbs is ''An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.'' It means that it can be easier to prevent a disaster than to fix it after it happens. This advice has been used to remind people to take precautions such as wearing bike helmets or taking vitamins.

Sometimes adages arise from elements of popular culture such as books and movies. The movie character Forrest Gump said ''Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get.'' People say this when they want to observe that sometimes life is surprising.

Recognizing Adages

You might hear people use an expression that doesn't directly fit with the situation. If so, it may be an adage.

Matt has a video game system at home but he told his dad he wanted a new video game system just like his friend Steve had. His dad replied, ''The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.'' What does grass have to do with video games? This proverb suggests that what someone else has may seem better than what you have, even if it's not.

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