All that glitters is not gold
"All that glitters is not gold" is a well-known saying, meaning that not everything that looks precious or true turns out to be so. This can be applied to the people, places, or things that promise to be more than they really are.
While early expressions of the idea are known from at least the 12th century, the current saying is derived from a 16th century line by William Shakespeare.
The expression, in various forms, originated in or before the 12th century and may date back to Æsop. The Latin is Non omne quod nitet aurum est. The French monk Alain de Lille wrote "Do not hold everything gold that shines like gold" in 1175.
Chaucer gave two early versions in English: "But al thyng which that shyneth as the gold / Nis nat gold, as that I have herd it told" in "The Canon's Yeoman's Tale", and "Hyt is not al golde that glareth" in "The House of Fame".
The popular form of the expression is a derivative of a line in William Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice, which employs the word "glisters," a 17th-century synonym for "glitters." The line comes from a secondary plot of the play, the puzzle of Portia's boxes (Act II - Scene VII - Prince of Morocco):
All that glisters is not gold—
Often have you heard that told.
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold.
Gilded tombs do worms enfold.
Had you been as wise as bold,
Young in limbs, in judgment old,
Your answer had not been inscrolled
Fare you well. Your suit is cold—
Cold, indeed, and labor lost.
Glitters or glisters
The original version of the saying used the word glisters, but glitters long ago became the predominant form. Poet John Dryden used glitter in his 1687 poem The Hind and the Panther. The words glister and glitter have the same meaning.
In popular culture
In pop culture, this phrase shows up in Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up". It is also used as lyrics in the song "A Guided Masquerade" by Alesana, in the song "Domino Rain" by Antemasque, in the song "Gold" by Prince, and in the Kanye West song, "Family Business".
Another common formulation with the same meaning is "All that shines is not gold", as seen in the title and refrain of the song "All That Shines Is Not Gold" and in the lyrics of "Next Time You See Me" as well as Curtis Mayfield's "That's What Mama Say".
Neil Young uses the saying in his song "Don't Be Denied" ("Well, all that glitters isn't gold, I know you've heard that story told.") from his 1973 album Time Fades Away to express his "realization that even success wouldn't make him happy", even after he obtained fame and money.
Both "Stairway to Heaven", by Led Zeppelin, and "All-Star", by Smash Mouth, use the phrase "All that glitters is gold." This is in contrast to the original the phrase, instead proposing that merits are surface level.
- "Gods of the Copybook Headings" – a poem reflecting on eternal truths amid human pretensions, by Rudyard Kipling
- "All that is gold does not glitter" – poem by J. R. R. Tolkien included in his fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings, with a contrasting meaning
- "Things are seldom what they seem" - song in Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore, where Little Buttercup alludes to Captain Corcoran's low birth by singing of things that may appear as one thing whilst being another, including the line "All that glitters is not gold".
- "Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes" – poem by Thomas Gray which ends "Nor all, that glisters, gold"
- The Phrase Finder; but see another view
- Discussion at Everything2
- Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs (3rd ed.). OUP. 1970. p. 316. ISBN 0198691181.
- Flexner, Stuart Berg (1993). Wise Words and Wives' Tales: The Origins, Meanings and Time-honored Wisdom of Proverbs and Folk Sayings, Olde and New. Avon Books. p. 7. ISBN 9780380762385.
- "Hyt is not al golde that glareth". Theidioms.com. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
- Shakespeare, William (1823). Measure for measure. Comedy of errors. Merchant of Venice. As you like it. Collins & Hannay. p. 171.
- "Mining; Journal of the Northwest Mining Association". 3–4. 1897: 193.
- Martin, Gary. "'All that glitters is not gold' - the meaning and origin of this phrase". Phrasefinder.
- Video on YouTube
- "SpongeBob SquarePants" All That Glitters/Wishing You Well (TV Episode 2006), retrieved 2018-06-27
- sconge07 (2007-10-16), All That Glitters, retrieved 2018-06-27
- Cox, W. "All That Shines Is Not Gold".
- "Grateful Dead – Next Time You See Me Lyrics".
- Video on YouTube
- Greene, Andy. "The 10 Best Neil Young Deep Cuts: 'Don't Be Denied'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 10 January 2017.
- Smash Mouth's song "All Star" is about the exact opposite everyone thinks it is, 2014-05-03, retrieved 2018-10-14
- Context of Shakespeare's quote at enotes.com