Silence is golden

Silence is golden is a proverb that may date to ancient times; the current iteration is only part of a longer, older proverb. A proverb is a short, common saying or phrase that may be a famous quote, an inspirational quote, an epigram, or the topic of a parable. These common sayings are language tools or figures of speech that particularly give advice or share a universal truth, or impart wisdom. Synonyms for proverb include adage, aphorism, sayings, and byword, which can also be someone or something that is the best example of a group. Often, a proverb is so familiar that a speaker will only quote half of it, relying on the listener to supply the ending of the written or spoken proverb himself because these common phrases and popular sayings are so well known. Certain phrases may be a metaphor or a quotation; but if it is a proverb, it is often-used and has a figurative meaning. Speakers of English as a second language are sometimes confused by these pithy sayings as translations from English to other languages do not carry the impact that the English phrases carry. Some common proverbs are the wise sayings better late than never; early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise; an apple a day keeps the doctor away; don’t cry over spilt milk; actions speak louder than words; haste makes waste, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth; and a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. One of the books of the Bible is the Book of Proverbs, which contains words and phrases that are still often quoted in the English language because they are wise. Many current proverbs are quotations taken from literature, particularly Shakespeare, as well as the Bible and other sacred writings. We will examine the meaning of the proverb silence is golden, where the expression came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Silence is golden is a reminder that sometimes it is better to say nothing rather than say the wrong thing or impart too much information. For instance, sometimes one’s negative opinion serves no purpose other than to make someone feel unhappy; in that case, silence is golden. The sentiment of keeping quiet in a judicious manner may date to ancient times; however, the phrase doesn’t pop up in English until 1831 when poet Thomas Carlyle translated the expression from German in his novel, Sartor Resartus: “As the Swiss Inscription says: Sprecfien ist silbern, Schweigen ist golden (Speech is silvern, Silence is golden)…” Today, the first half of the original proverb, speech is silver, silence is golden, is usually only seen as a quotation from Carlyle. The phrase silence is golden is the preferred iteration.

Examples

They say that silence is golden, but that rule does not apply when you have a child in the house. (Independent South Africa)

China’s Evergrande, facing collapse under debt mountain, decides silence is golden (Washington Post)

Los Altos City Councilmember Lynette Lee Eng may think silence is golden when it comes to her now very public dispute with local Black youth leader Kenan Moos. (Los Altos Town Crier)

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