PROVERB (Lat. proverbium, from pro, forth, publicly, verbum, word; the Greek equivalent is irapoinia, homirapa, alongside, and OIMOS, way, road, i.e. a wayside saying; Ger. S prickwort) , a form of folk-literature, or its later imitation, expressing, in the form of a simple, homely sentence, a pungent criticism of life. Many definitions have been attempted of a " proverb," of which none has met with universal acceptance. J. Howell's (d. 1666) three essentials, " shortness, sense and salt," omit the chief characteristic, popularity or general acceptance, and the definition of Erasmus Celebre dictum scita quapiam novitate insigne suits a good proverb rather than proverbs in general. Lord Russell's " The wisdom of many and the wit of one " is familiar.
For a general survey of the subject of proverbs, Archbishop Trench's Proverbs and their Lessons (new ed., 1905, by A. SmythePaimer, with additions and notes) is useful; it contains a fairly comprehensive bibliography, ancient and modern. Bohn's Handbook of Proverbs, and Polyglot of Foreign Proverbs (1857), based on 1 The viguerie was the jurisdiction of a viguier, i.e. "vicar," a name given at various times and places in the south of France to very different feudal -officials. The viguerie in the 17th and 18th centuries as an administrative subdivision in Provence corresponded to the prevote elsewhere.
the collections of John Ray (1670) and David Ferguson (1641), are very full. V. Stuckey Lean's Collectanea (5 vols.) 1902 is a storehouse of English proverbs, classified in various ways; Notes and Queries, gth series (1898), vol. ii., contains a bibliography of English works. The principal foreign works are G. Strafforello, La Sapienza del mondo (3 vols., 1883) and Reinsberg and Duringsfeld, Die Sprichworter der germanischen und romanischen Sprachen (2 vols., 1872-1875). There are many popular handbooks giving full collections of proverbs, English and foreign.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)