All that glitters is not gold
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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 apply to people, places, or things that promise to be more than they really are. The expression, in various forms, originated in or before the 12th century and may date back to Aesop.
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 judgement old
Your answer had not been inscroll'd
Fare you well, your suit is cold.
Panning for gold often results in finding pyrite, nicknamed fool's gold, which reflects substantially more light than authentic gold does. Gold in its raw form appears dull and does not glitter.
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 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".
The inverse of this expression, "All that glitters is gold," is a lyric in the Led Zeppelin song, "Stairway to Heaven", the Smash Mouth song, "All Star", the Death in Vegas song, "All That Glitters", and in the Future Islands song "A Dream of You and Me" followed by the lyric "Don't believe what you've been told".
- "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
- "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
- Video on YouTube
- Not All That Shines Is Not Gold
- All That Glitters Is Not Gold, Huffington Post
- All that glitters is not gold
- Cox, W. "All That Shines Is Not Gold".
- "Grateful Dead – Next Time You See Me Lyrics".
- Video on YouTube
The Angostura Historical Digest
- Context of Shakespeare's quote at enotes.com