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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?




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Answer: maxim

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 general truth."

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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 men?]

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 Rhetoric).

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
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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 choice.

[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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