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.
Example: Mike’s house was always a mess. Whenever his friends went over to visit, someone would trip and fall because of the clutter. His friends became fed up with how untidy everything was, so they told him: “Mike, you keep telling us that your house will be cleaner the next time we drop by, but it never is. Remember, actions speak louder than words.”
Synonyms/Related: all bark and no bite, all talk and no action, put your money where your mouth is, talk is cheap
It is easy to say things, people do it all the time! For example, to lighten the workload for his wife, a husband might say he’ll start washing the dishes every day. However, what if he never follows through? Then his words didn’t mean much. So his wife might direct the phrase “actions speak louder than words” at him, meaning that instead of saying he will do the dishes, it would be better if took action and actually did it. Indeed, this expression emphasizes that it’s the action part that matters most.
Anyway, what is 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.”
Indeed, Michel, indeed.
Anyways, to summarize: The modern form of this phrase is a little over 280 years old. However, the idea behind the phrase—that actions are more significant than words—is much more ancient.
Tip: Hey, just so you know, we have a list of phrases and sayings starting with “A” that you can use. You’ll find more expressions just like this one.
- Jim, you’ve said several times before that you’re gonna quit drinking, but you clearly have yet to do so. If you really mean it, well, actions speak louder than words.
- You’re all talk and no action, Owen. The gutters are still full of leaves and last week you promised that you’d clean them.
- Sometimes you need to be stern with your kids, otherwise they’ll quickly figure out that you’re all bark and no bite.