All that Glitters is Not Gold - Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking at that new UHD TV from an unknown manufacturing brand? Sure, it looks great, with all the smart features of the top brands.

Remember, "all that glitters is not gold," and you could end up regretting your purchase when the TV starts to turn faulty in a few months.

This post looks at the meaning and origin of this idiom.

All that Glitters is not Gold Idiom Meaning

"All that glitters is not gold" is an idiom describing a reaction to a person or object. If you're telling someone that "all that glitters is not gold," you could be talking about a new candidate for a job or a potential hotel and vacation spot.

Essentially the idiom is a warning that you might experience an adverse outcome instead of what you expect. For instance, someone could be on a stage making a speech, promising the world to the audience. A person could use the phrase to tell someone to lower their expectations on the speaker delivering their promises.

All that Glitters is not Gold Example Usage

"I know you think that Gillian is the best candidate for the job. She has the right qualifications and experience, but all that glitters is not gold."

"The government's proposal for the infrastructure project looks good, but all that glitters is not gold."

"The car looks mint on the exterior, but all that glitters is not gold, and the engine blew on the first time he took it to the track."

"Damian took the job because it was a considerable jump in salary. Alas, all that glitters is not gold, and he can't stand the people he works with now."

All that Glitters is not Gold Idiom Origin

The original use of the phrase appears as "all that glisters is not gold." However, someone replaced the "glister" with "glitter," and that change stuck with the phrase throughout history. William Shakespeare provides us with the first use of the words in his work "The Merchant of Venice" from 1596. The text reads as follows.

"O hell! What have we here?

A carrion Death, within whose empty eye

There is a written scroll! I'll read the writing.

All that glitters is not gold;"…

The expression was well in use before Shakespeare brought it to the stage. In fact, it was in such frequent use by the 1600s that it was a somewhat proverbial phrase. Alain de Lille, the 12th-century French theologian, penned the following text.

"Do not hold everything gold that shines like gold."

Geoffrey Chaucer's poem "The House of Fame," penned in 1380, shows the following.

"For, by Crist, lo! thus hit fareth;

'Hit is not al gold, that glareth.' "

Phrases Similar to All that Glitters is not Gold

  • It doesn't live up to the claim.
  • Don't believe the hype.
  • Nothing is a sure thing.

Phrases Opposite to All that Glitters is not Gold

  • It's a sure thing.
  • No need to check.
  • We got what we wanted.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • All that glitters is not gold.

Ways People May Say All that Glitters is not Gold Incorrectly

The phrase doesn't have any reference to something glittering. The glitter refers to the hype, claims, or promises, not actual glitter. The gold refers to the outcome of the commitment being beyond expectations or better than you expect. It's not a physical reference to the color of gold.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase All that Glitters is not Gold

In social and professional settings, you can use "all that glitters is not gold" to describe dubious promises from people, objects, products, or systems. You'll use it to paint a scenario where the results could be less than desirable or not up to expectations.

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