All Good Things Must Come to an End – Meaning, Usage and Origin

The idiom “All good things must come to an end” is an older saying still in common use today. It is one of the most universally used and recognized idioms around the world.

Meaning of “All Good Things Must Come to an End”

The sentiment behind this idiom is that all good things are temporary and cannot last forever. The implication is that we should enjoy and appreciate the good times while we have them and remember them fondly.

In more modern times, this idiom has also been used sarcastically, for example after an awful experience or period of time.

Examples of Usage

In its traditional usage, this idiom conveys that good experiences in life are fleeting. It infers that you should appreciate those experiences while you have them. Some good examples of this usage are:

“The trip to Hawaii was the most relaxing vacation we’ve ever had. But all good things must come to an end, and now it’s time to get back to work.”

“It’s hard, I know, to leave a career that you love and have put so much time and effort into. All good things must come to an end, though, and I know you’ll have a lot of exciting new experiences in your retirement.”

“Summer camp was the best time ever, but all good things must come to an end. The leaves are fallin’ and school is callin’.”

This idiom is also used sarcastically in the modern vernacular as a way to indicate a negative experience:

“Don’t get me started on my trip to Aspen. I broke my foot, it rained every day, and a rabid fox got into our cabin in the middle of the night. But at least I got food poisoning as well. But you know what they say, ‘All good things must come to an end.’”

What Is the Correct Saying?

The traditional phrasing for this idiom in modern times is “All good things must come to an end.” This phrasing is the most common form and the most used today.

However, other common phrases also inhabit the modern lexicon.

Alternate Phrasings

Other acceptable and widely used versions and synonyms for the idiom “All good things must come to an end” are in everyday use as well. These include:

  • “All good things come to an end.”
  • “All good things end.”
  • “All good things must end.
  • “All is well that ends well.”

These are all interchangeable and well understood as to their meaning and intent in modern language.

Origin of the Idiom

The first known written record of the phrase “All good things must come to an end” comes from the medieval poet Geoffrey Chaucer, who is most well-known for his immortal and epic story, “The Canterbury Tales.”

His poem, “Troilus and Criseyde,” contains the following line, which is written in Middle English:

“But at the laste, as every thing hath edne”

Notably, the word “good” does not appear in the original quote. Indeed, in its first incarnations in the United States in the latter 17th century, it was originally phrased “All things must end.” It was not until later that the word “good” found its way into the saying.

It has been in use in the English language ever since, and as the language has evolved, so has the saying, until it became as we know it today.

Similar Sayings

This sentiment is expressed in various ways in the English-speaking world and throughout other languages around the globe. Some examples include:

  • “All things must end.”
  • “All things come to an end.”
  • “All things must pass.”
  • “Good times don’t last forever.”
  • “Nothing lasts forever.”
  • “Everything in life is temporary.”
  • “Happiness will never come to those who fail to appreciate what they have.”
  • “Everything passes.”
  • “Remember the good times, endure the bad times.”
  • “The morning sun never lasts a day.”

Summary

“All good things must come to an end” is one of the most widely recognized and used idioms in modern English conversation. It reminds us all that nothing is permanent and that we ought to cherish good times while we have them.

This sentiment is similarly expressed in several other cultures around the world. Buddhism, in particular, emphasizes appreciating the now and not lingering on the idea of permanence.

Also, this saying in more recent years has been turned on its head and used in a sarcastic way to emphasize a negative period or experience.

Regardless of how it’s used, it is a mainstay of popular expression and will stay in the books for a long time to come.

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