Actions speak louder than words is a phrase that means a person’s actions are more impactful than just their words alone. Put another way—instead of just talking about doing something, it’s more meaningful if a person actually does something.
Related: all bark and no bite, all talk and no action, put your money where your mouth is, talk is cheap
Origin of ‘Actions Speak Louder Than Words’
Sometimes people say they will do something, but then they don’t do it. For example, a husband might tell his wife that he will start doing more chores around the house to help her out. That’s nice and all, but what if he never follows through? Then his wife might tell him “actions speak louder than words,” which means that instead of only saying he will help out with the chores, it would more meaningful if he actually took action and did the thing he said. Yes, this expression emphasizes that our actions matter more than just our words alone.
Anyway, enough about that. Let us talk about the origin of this phrase. Its earliest known appearance (with the exact wording it has today) is in a work called Melancholy State of Province, 1736:
“Actions speak louder than words, and are more to be regarded.”
However, the idea of this phrase goes back even further. For example, Michel de Montaigne, who lived during the 1500s, expressed the following in one of the essays he wrote:
“Saying is a different thing from doing.”
In summary, the modern form of the phrase actions speak louder than words is a over 280 years old, at least. However, the idea behind the phrase—that actions are more significant than words—is much more ancient.
- Jim is a frequent liar. He’s told me several times that he will change, but I’ve yet to see it. I told him if he really means it, then actions speak louder than words. Show me, don’t tell me!
- You’re all talk and no action, Owen. Last week you promised that you would clean out the gutters, but they are still chock full of leaves!
- Sometimes you need to be stern with your kids, otherwise they’ll quickly figure out that you are all bark and no bite.