A Picture Paints a Thousand Words (Origin)

What Is the Origin of the Saying "A Picture Paints a Thousand Words"?

The term "a picture paints a thousand words" means a visual presentation is far more descriptive than words.

The origin of "a picture paints a thousand words" is usually attributed to the newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane (1864-1936), who, in a 1911 newspaper article, advocated the use of images with the advice "Use a picture. It's worth a thousand words."

Competing Theory

The term is also attributed to an oriental origin, either Japanese or Chinese. In 1921, the British artist Frederick R. Barnard (noted for his work on the novels of Charles Dickens) wrote an article on the use of images for the journal "Printer's Ink" entitled "One Look Is Worth a Thousand Words." In his article, Barnard claimed the phrase belonged to a famous Japanese philosopher. Six years later, however, Printer's Ink ran a similar article, stating "one picture is worth ten thousand words," claiming it was a Chinese proverb.

Table of Contents

  • English Proverbs and Idioms Test
  • More Proverbs, Sayings, and Idioms
A Picture Paints a Thousand Words (Origin)

Examples of Use:

  • A picture paints a thousand words, conveying meaning and emotion more effectively than mere written or spoken descriptions.
  • Instead of explaining the scene in detail, he showed them a photograph, understanding that a picture paints a thousand words.
  • The artist beautifully captured the essence of the landscape in their painting, reminding us that a picture paints a thousand words.
  • In the age of social media, we often rely on images to tell stories, as a picture paints a thousand words in a single glance.
  • They say a picture paints a thousand words, and the powerful photograph of the historic moment certainly spoke volumes.

Previous and Next Sayings

English Proverbs and Idioms Test

More Proverbs, Sayings, and Idioms

author logo

This page was written by Craig Shrives.