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Difference Between Idiom and Proverb

Main Difference

The main difference between Idiom and Proverb is that an Idiom is such a group of words in which the literal meaning is different from the symbolic one, whereas a Proverb is a statement expressing a belief or idea that is believed to be correct.

Idiom vs. Proverb

The main aim of idioms is to catch the audience by the use of spicy words. It intensifies the things and assertively gives the message through the use of figurative language. On the other hand, the main aim of proverbs is to give a message that is beneficial or to give moral/moral lessons.

Idiom does not necessarily hold moral or social messages; on the flip side, proverb always holds some kind of a moral or social message that intends to improve society. An idiom is defined as “a group of words with an established meaning in a figurative sense that cannot be inferred from its literal meaning.” On the other side, a proverb is defined as “a famous short saying about how people should behave or that expresses a specific belief.”

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The example of an idiom is “Call it a day” (means to stop the work that you are doing), on the flip side, the example of a proverb is “Call a bear uncle till you cross the bridge.” The literal meaning of the word to word meaning of a proverb can lead to the underlying meaning of it; on the other side, the literal meaning or word to word meaning of an idiom does not reveal its symbolic meaning. One must know the established meaning of an idiom to understand it; on the other hand, the proverb also has some connotations that must be studied for its better understanding.

Comparison Chart

IdiomProverb
A group of words in which the literal meaning is different from the symbolic one is known as an idiom.A statement expressing a belief or idea that is believed to be correct is known as a proverb.
Aim
To impart the meaning in an unusual or hidden way.To give a moral message or advice.
Kind of Meaning
Established meaning, symbolic meaning than the literal oneBroader meaning than the literal meaning
Moral Lessons
Not refers to a moral or social message.Always have some kind of a moral or social message.
Understanding
It is difficult to understandIt is somewhat easy to understand
Grammatically
Idioms are phrasesProverbs are statements
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What is Idiom?

Idioms are the short sentence or phrases that give a figurative meaning more than its literal meaning. It is not possible to get the meaning of an idiom word to word. It instead holds a figurative meaning that generally gives a different message that is not a bit related to the words in a literal sense.

For example, “Pull someone’s leg” is an idiom that doesn’t mean that you are pulling the leg of a person. It means to joke with someone. Sometimes, it is easy for a native speaker to get the meaning of an idiom from its wording, but a non-native speaker cannot get the meaning until he reads about its established meaning. Basically, an Idiom is an expression in a group of words having a symbolic or figurative meaning. One must be familiar with this expression to get the meaning of an idiom.

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Examples

  • “That’s the last straw” (my patience has run out)
  • Fed up (tired and annoyed with something or someone)
  • To rub someone the wrong ( to irritate someone)
  • By the skin of your teeth means (something barely or hardly successful)
  • Break a leg (wishing a person good luck)
  • Spill the beans (tell a secret)
  • Give someone the cold shoulder (To ignore someone)
  • Get into hot water (to get into trouble)
  • Smell a rat (something is wrong)
  • Hit the sack (Go to sleep)

What is Proverb?

A proverb is defined as “An advice about how we should act or a belief that is thought to be correct.” Proverbs are playing a role in society for very long. It tends to educate, advise, and refrain. The proverbs are the statements that are thought to be always correct. It can be a piece of expert advice or a little tidbit of wisdom. There are a lot of proverbs from different origins, and for every circumstance, there is a proverb that can be applied. The meaning of the proverb is more significant than its individual words’ meaning.

The literal meaning of a proverb also makes sense on its own, but as a proverb, it has a broader meaning which can be applied to a set of situations. For example, the idiom “There is no need to cry over spilled milk.” It holds a meaning that “Don’t waste your energy by mourning for a thing that is already gone or done.” Proverbs intend to impart wisdom, and they are often told by older people. A proverb is defined as “A one-line lesson, belief or message that is generally thought to be true and that tells the ways to improve the behavior or to act in a certain way.”

Examples

  • A tree is known by its fruit. (Success is shown by the deeds)
  • A monkey in silk is a monkey no less. (fancy dress/appearance is unable to make the character fancy)
  • A stitch in time saves nine. (Early amendment of a mistake save from further loss)

Key Differences

  1. An idiom is such a group of words in which the literal meaning is different from the figurative one. In contrast, a proverb is a statement expressing a belief or idea that is believed to be correct.
  2. The main aim of idioms is to catch the audience by the use of spicy words; on the other hand, the main aim of proverbs is to give a message that is beneficial or to give moral/moral lessons.
  3. The literal meaning of the word to word meaning of a proverb can lead to the underlying meaning of it; on the converse, the literal meaning or word to word meaning of an idiom does not reveal its figurative meaning.
  4. Idiom does not necessarily hold moral or social messages; on the flip side, a proverb always holds some kind of a moral or social message that intends to improve society.
  5. One must know the established meaning of an idiom to understand it; on the contrary, the proverb also has some connotations that must be studied for its better understanding.
  6. An idiom is defined as “a group of words with an established meaning in a figurative sense that cannot be inferred from its literal meaning” while a proverb is defined as “a short popular saying advising about how we should act or that expressing a belief.”

Conclusion

Idiom and proverb are the two different literary devices that are different from one another. The difference between both the terms is based on their meaning and usage.

Aimie Carlson

Aimie Carlson is an English language enthusiast who loves writing and has a master degree in English literature. Follow her on Twitter at @AimieCarlson

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