(redirected from Maxims)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal.
Related to Maxims: Proverbs


(măk`sĭm), name of a family of inventors and munition makers. Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim, 1840–1916, was born near Sangerville, Maine. After launching on a career of inventing, he moved to England and there invented (1884) the Maxim machine gun. Among his numerous other inventions were a smokeless powder, a delayed-action fuse, and an airplane. His arms company was consolidated (1896) with the Vickers firm. He became a British subject in 1900 and was knighted in 1901. His brother, Hudson Maxim, 1853–1927, was born in Orneville, Maine, and remained in the United States. A chemist, he developed numerous inventions, including a high explosive (maximite), smokeless powders (one of them stabilite), and a self-combustive compound to propel torpedoes (motorite). Hiram Percy Maxim, 1869–1936, son of Sir Hiram, was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and remained in the United States. After graduation from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he held many positions as a mechanical engineer and created several inventions, among them an automobile. The most spectacular was the Maxim silencer for explosive weapons (1908), but perhaps more useful were silencers for gasoline engines and the like.



a generalized, profound, laconic, and polished thought of a given author that expresses a rule of conduct or a basic logical or ethical principle by which people may be guided in their actions; for example: “When in doubt, come to the truth” (Cicero); “Avoid everything your conscience does not approve” (L. N. Tolstoy). Later on, the term “maxim” was understood in a broader sense and came to mean any wise saying.

The maxims of the French moralist writers La Rochefoucauld (Memoirs and Maxims; Russian translation, 1971), La Bruyere (Characters, or The Mores of the Present Age; Russian translation, 1964), and Vauvenargues (Complete Collected Works [in Russian], vol. 2, 1968), and the German thinkers J. W. Goethe (Maxims and Reflections, 1953) and G. K. Lichtenberg (Aphorisms; Russian translation, 1965), all represent a brilliant form of philosophical statement.

Many maxims are contained in the notebooks of the Russian historian V. O. Kliuchevskii (Letters, Diaries, Aphorisms and Thoughts About History, 1968). Parodic maxims, at times concealing practical wisdom under a mask of irony, were created by Koz’ma Prutkov (Complete Collected Works, 1965). Well-known contemporary maxims include those of the Polish writer S. J. Lec (Unkempt Thoughts, 1968) and the Soviet writer Emil’ Krotkii (Excerpts From an Unwritten Work, 1966).


Wilpert, G. Sachwörterbuch der Literatur, 4th ed. Stuttgart, 1964.
Encyclopédic Internationale “Focus,” vol. 3. Paris, 1964. Page 2179.



a brief expression of a general truth, principle, or rule of conduct


Sir Hiram Stevens. 1840--1916, British inventor of the first automatic machine gun (1884), born in the US
References in classic literature ?
According to the maxim "same cause, same effect," we cannot therefore regard the peat-smoke alone as the cause of your recollection, since it does not have the same effect in other cases.
And the man of maxims is the popular representative of the minds that are guided in their moral judgment solely by general rules, thinking that these will lead them to justice by a ready-made patent method, without the trouble of exerting patience, discrimination, impartiality,--without any care to assure themselves whether they have the insight that comes from a hardly earned estimate of temptation, or from a life vivid and intense enough to have created a wide fellow-feeling with all that is human.
Nevertheless, as upon the good conduct of the harpooneers the success of a whaling voyage largely depends, and since in the American Fishery he is not only an important officer in the boat, but under certain circumstances (night watches on a whaling ground) the command of the ship's deck is also his; therefore the grand political maxim of the sea demands, that he should nominally live apart from the men before the mast, and be in some way distinguished as their professional superior; though always, by them, familiarly regarded as their social equal.
The frequency of this has had the effect to establish among the slaves the maxim, that a still tongue makes a wise head.
Perhaps, then, you would bestow it as a reward on that person who wrote the ablest defence of your favourite maxim, that no one can ever be in love more than once in their life--your opinion on that point is unchanged, I presume?
But he applied that maxim to our marriage, my dear; and that was so far prematurely entered into, in consequence, that I never recovered the expense.
Although we usually call reward and punishment the two hinges upon which all government turns, yet I could never observe this maxim to be put in practice by any nation except that of Lilliput.

Full browser ?