Old wives’ tale vs old wise tale

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An old wives’ tale is a belief or superstition that is commonly believed to be true but is not based on actual fact. An old wives’ tale is usually but not always erroneous, it is folklore passed down from one generation to another without the benefit of scientific analysis. The word wives in this case comes from the Old English word wif, meaning woman, not necessarily a married woman. At one time, the information handed down from one generation of women to another was valuable wisdom. In this more scientific time, such information is subject to ridicule. The plural of old wives’ tale is old wives’ tales. Notice the spelling of wives’ is plural possessive, with the apostrophe coming after the final letter of the word.

Old wise tale is an eggcorn, a mishearing of the phrase old wives’ tale.


Ever heard this old wives’ tale that cool water keeps your locks looking great? (Good Housekeeping Magazine)

And for those who believe in catching up on lost sleep during the weekend, Amlaner says the science doesn’t support this old wives’ tale. (The Marietta Daily Journal)

If you’re looking to dig without much risk, “remember the old wives’ tale, to plant your potatoes on Good Friday,” she said. (The Ottumwa Courier)

It’s an old wives’ tale that coffee is good for the skin, but after we did some research and saw that the science stood up we knew this was “it”. (The Daily Mail)

A series of online ads last year featured three sisters debunking old wives’ tales about diesel, including that it was dirty and that it smelled bad. (The New York Times)

There came a time in our teens when we considered such old wives’ tales to be ridiculous, but as we aged and gained knowledge, we found that though the effects described in these tales were fictitious, they were designed to teach us lessons based on experience and logic. (The Nation)