All That Glitters Is Not Gold: Where Did this Term Originally Come from?

What does “all that glitters is not gold” mean? This popular term of speech is widely used in written and spoken language and is an interesting phrase. Where did this term originally come from and what is the meaning behind it?

All That Glitters Is Not Gold

All That Glitters Is Not Gold Meaning

The phrase “all that glitters is not gold” is used to refer to something that might appear wonderful at first glance but in reality it is not everything it seems to be.

Origin of this idiomatic expression

The term was first used by William Shakespeare in his play The merchant of Venice all the way back in 1596 and was used to talk about the fact the the most shiny things are not always the most precious ones. The phrase was then readily used in poetry before becoming the regularly used idiom that it is today.

“All That Glitters Is Not Gold” Examples

Example Sentences

You might use the phrase “all that glitters is not gold” when talking about something that a friend is thinking about doing. You might say something like “Tread carefully in leaving your partner for this new woman, all that glitters is not gold.”

You could also use the term when talking about buying a new car, for example. The car dealer has made the car look really good, when in fact it doesn’t run very well and has had a lot of problems, “take caution when buying this new car because all that glitters is not gold.”

Conversation Examples

This phrase can be used in a number of different conversations, and some of those might play out a little like the following.

Conversation 1:

  • Person 1: I am thinking about moving into that house around the corner, have you seen how lovely it looks from the outside?
  • Person 2: Yes it does look wonderful but you should take a look inside before you buy it, it may not be as good as you think.
  • Person 1: No, I don’t have time for that, it is just as good inside, I’m sure of it.
  • Person 2: Just be careful, all that glitters is not gold.

Conversation 2:

  • Person 1: I am leaving my job, I want to become a pop star.
  • Person 2: That might not be all you think it will be.
  • Person 1: Of course it will be, fame, fortune and fans. What’s not to love?
  • Person 2: I’m sure that a lot of pop stars will tell you differently, all that glitters is not gold.

Other Ways to Say the Phrase

There are many ways to get across the meaning of this saying in conversation. Some other ways in which you might say all that glitters in not gold are;

  • All that glisters is not golden
  • Things are not always what they first appear
  • Do not judge book by its cover
  • Clothes don’t make the man
  • Appearances are deceptive
  • Never judge from appearances
  • Beauty is but skin deep

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