A Word To The Wise

Meaning of Idiom ‘A Word to the Wise’

A word to the wise expresses the intention to give a brief bit of advice or a quick explanation that an intelligent person should find sufficient without more details. It can be thought of as a ‘hint.’ 1Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.,2Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.


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Usage

This idiom may simply be used to introduce a piece of advice, but it usually conveys a more subtle intention, such as to say “I’ll just tell you what you absolutely need to know and you are smart or savvy enough to draw your own conclusions and act accordingly.” Although the statement may be more than one word, the idiom is usually spoken as a stand-alone expression introducing a very short utterance.

Examples Of Use

“A word to the wise, the boss is in a wicked mood today.”

“A word to the wise,” said the travel agent, “drink bottled water.”

a word to the wise idiom meaning

Origin

This idiom is the shortened English equivalent of an ancient Latin expression, verbum sapienti sat est meaning “a word to the wise is enough.” 3Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.

It has been used in English since the mid-1500’s. 4Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

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Sources   [ + ]

1, 3. Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.
2, 4. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.