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Quotations vs. Sayings — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Urooj Arif — Published on February 8, 2024
Quotations are exact reproductions of someone else's words, often from a notable individual or source, while sayings are common phrases or expressions conveying a wisdom or truth, not attributed to a specific person.
Quotations vs. Sayings — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Quotations and Sayings


Key Differences

Quotations are precise excerpts from speeches, texts, or utterances, typically attributed to a specific individual or source, signifying their importance or relevance. They are often used to support an argument, convey an idea more effectively, or provide an authoritative perspective. Sayings, on the other hand, are traditional phrases or proverbs that express common wisdom or truths. These are usually anonymous and passed down through generations, reflecting cultural values or observations about life and human nature.
Sayings embody cultural wisdom and shared experiences, often rooted in historical or societal contexts. They are generalized and can be adapted to various situations due to their universal nature. In contrast, quotations are bound to their original context and author. They carry the weight of the author's reputation and the circumstances in which they were said, making them specific and context-dependent.
The usage of quotations in writing or speech adds a layer of credibility and authority, as they borrow from the original speaker's or writer's reputation. They are meticulously cited to maintain accuracy and respect intellectual property. Conversely, sayings are more flexible, often altered or paraphrased to fit the current context, without the need for precise citation, as they belong to the public domain.
Quotations require acknowledgment of the original author, as they are directly linked to the individual's intellectual contribution. Misquoting can lead to ethical concerns or misrepresentation. Sayings, being part of collective heritage, do not require such attribution and are open to interpretation and evolution, reflecting the dynamic nature of language and culture.
When quotations are used, they are often a focal point, highlighted to leverage the authority or eloquence of the original speaker. In contrast, sayings seamlessly integrate into everyday language, often used colloquially without drawing attention to their origins or the act of quoting itself.

Comparison Chart


Attributed to a specific individual or document
Anonymous, culturally or historically derived

Citation Requirement

Requires precise citation
No citation needed

Context Dependency

Context-specific, linked to original situation
Generally applicable, flexible in usage

Intellectual Property

Often protected, requires acknowledgment
Public domain, no ownership

Purpose in Language

Adds authority, supports argument
Conveys common wisdom, enriches colloquial speech

Compare with Definitions


A reference to a well-known statement or phrase.
For example, his essay included a quotation from Abraham Lincoln.


A proverbial or idiomatic phrase conveying advice.
For example, Don't count your chickens before they hatch is a well-known saying.


A verbatim excerpt from someone's speech or writing.
For example, To be or not to be is a famous quotation from Shakespeare.


A commonly used expression or phrase embodying a piece of wisdom or truth.
For example, A stitch in time saves nine is a popular saying.


The act of citing or referring to something said or written.
For example, her speech began with a quotation from Maya Angelou.


An aphorism or concise statement of a principle.
For example, Actions speak louder than words is a meaningful saying.


A statement offered as evidence or illustration.
For example, he used a quotation from the Bible to explain his point.


An adage or maxim reflecting common wisdom.
For example, The early bird catches the worm is a saying encouraging promptness.


Reproduction of a famous saying or passage.
For example, the book began with a quotation from 'Moby Dick'.


A colloquialism or regional expression used in everyday language.
For example, Barking up the wrong tree is a saying used to describe a misunderstanding.


The act of quoting.


Something, such as an adage or maxim, that is said.


A passage quoted.


Plural of saying


An explicit reference or allusion in an artistic work to a passage or element from another, usually well-known work
"Direct quotations from other paintings are fairly sparse" (Robert Hughes).


The quoting of current prices and bids for securities and goods.


The prices or bids cited.


Plural of quotation

Common Curiosities

Are quotations always exact?

Yes, quotations are exact reproductions of someone's words and require accurate citation.

Can sayings be modified?

Yes, sayings are often adapted or paraphrased and do not require precise wording.

What is a saying?

A saying is a commonly used phrase or expression that conveys a piece of wisdom, truth, or advice, often not attributed to a specific person.

Are sayings subject to copyright?

No, sayings are generally considered public domain and do not require attribution.

What is a quotation?

A quotation is a precise reproduction of someone's spoken or written words, attributed to a specific individual or source.

What happens if a quotation is misattributed?

Misattributing a quotation can lead to misinformation and may discredit the speaker or writer.

How do quotations differ from sayings in terms of source?

Quotations have a specific, identifiable source, while sayings are usually anonymous and derived from cultural or historical traditions.

What is the purpose of sayings?

Sayings are used to convey common wisdom, societal values, or practical advice in a concise form.

How do sayings reflect culture?

Sayings often reflect the values, beliefs, and experiences of the culture they originate from.

Are sayings used in formal writing?

Sayings are more common in informal contexts but can be used in formal writing if relevant and appropriately presented.

Why are quotations used?

Quotations are used to add credibility, authority, or articulate a point more effectively by borrowing the reputation of the original speaker or author.

Do quotations need to be cited?

Yes, proper citation is necessary for quotations to acknowledge the original source.

Why are sayings important in language?

Sayings enrich the language by embedding cultural wisdom and providing concise expressions for common experiences or advice.

Can quotations be from any source?

Yes, quotations can come from a variety of sources including literature, speeches, movies, or personal communications.

Can quotations change over time?

The wording of a quotation should remain constant to preserve its integrity, though its interpretation may evolve.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.

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