It derives from a Late Latin phrase that means
"greatest premise" and it denotes "a general truth expressed in one sentence."
What word is it?
Etymology, Etymology, and more Etymology
as well as grammar, usage, euphemism, slang, jargon, semantics, linguistics, neologism, idiom, cant, and argot.
The critically-acclaimed board game
consists of tough questions about the nuances of the English language.
The word maxim derives from the Late Latin
maxima propositio, greatest premise. When it entered English
in the 15th century, it denoted "a self-evident proposition used as a premiss
in reasoning." Within 150 years, it had come to label "a pithy expression of
This is the first one I answered
correctly in a long time! In fact, Aristotle is the first Rhetorician to coin
the phrase and use it to define "a self-evident proposition used as a premiss
in reasoning" which can only be used by "elderly" men.
[Mootguy: Why can maxims only be used by elderly
Aristotle believed that a maxim could only
be used by "elderly" men because only older men were capable of knowing a
"self-evident proposition." In his time, for a young man to use a maxim was
“like telling stories – unbecoming; to use them in handling things in which
one has no experience is silly and ill-bred” (Aristotle, 840 B.C., p. 224 of
I actually applied a lot of Aristotle's
beliefs about maxims to our contemporary Maxim magazine and discovered that the
use of maxim in the magazine is no where near what Aristotle would consider a
"correct usage." (He's probably rolling over in his grave)
Dresang at uwyo.edu
How about Axiom? Does it not
also conform to the rubric of your question? I may be missing something, but
the two words both occured to me, and of the two Axiom may be the better
[Mootguy: "Axiom" doesn't
derive from a Late Latin phrase that means "greatest premise," so it doesn't
fit the question's requirements. ]
jromain at omnc.ca
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