Actions Speak Louder than Words – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a way to tell a person that they need to start sticking to the promises they make? The expression “actions speak louder than words should stop and make them think about their behavior. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this proverbial saying.

Meaning

The proverb “actions speak louder than words” expresses the idea that studying a person’s actions gives you a better impression of their character than what they say.

It means that society and other people value what you do more than what you say you will do. If you’re always promising to do something and you never do it, someone might call you out using this saying.

Example Usage

“Paul is always telling everybody that he’s willing to help. I called him last weekend, and he told me he was busy. I suppose actions speak louder than words, and he’s just full of nonsense.”

“Gillian told everyone that she would help with the project, and they spent the time on her phone all afternoon. Actions speak louder than words, I guess.”

“Ted is always telling people how he’s such a thoughtful person. However, he didn’t go see Tim once in the hospital. Actions speak louder than words.”

“What do you mean Jordan told you to trust him? I heard he got arrested for wire fraud ten years ago. Actions speak louder than words, and I wouldn’t give him a dime of my money.”

Origin

The proverb, “actions speak louder than words,” originates from the era of the English Civil War. John Pym, English parliamentarian, coined the expression in a session in 1628 in Hansard, where he said it as follows.

A word spoken in season is like an Apple of Gold set in Pictures of Silver,’ and actions are more precious than words.”

Another expression variation appears in print in 1693, in Thomas Manton’s “Book of Sermons.”

They would make that their work and scope, that this may be the real language of their hearts and actions, which speak much louder than words.”

The exact phrase we use today first appears in print in 1736, in “The Melancholy State of Province,” a collection of letters. An unknown gentleman pens the following.

Actions speak louder than words and are more to be regarded.”

Phrases Similar to Actions Speak Louder than Words

  • What you do, not what you say.
  • If you say it, do it.

Phrases Opposite to Actions Speak Louder than Words

  • You do everything you say.
  • I can always rely on you.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Actions speak louder than words.

Ways People May Say Actions Speak Louder than Words Incorrectly

Using the expression “actions speak louder than words” is only suitable for telling people that they are not living up to their promises or the hype they create around their actions. So, using the expression in reference to words actually speaking is the incorrect use of the phrase.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Actions Speak Louder than Words

You can use the saying “actions speak louder than words” when you’re trying to tell someone that their verbal promises don’t match their behavior. The expression suits professional and social use. For example, you could tell someone at work “actions speak louder than words” when they protest their poor performance and try to blame it on other people.

You could use the saying at home when you’re trying to tell someone they aren’t living up to their promises. For instance, if your dad doesn’t come to your soccer match and then tells you they are the best dad ever, you could say to them that “actions speak louder than words.”

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