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 Æsop. The Latin is Non omne quod nitet aurum est.
In simpler words, the phrase can mean "Not everything has a true appearance."
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.
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. The expression is also found in Yiddish (nit als vos glanst iz gold), especially amongst Hasidim, and also appears in a Hebrew work of Mendele Mocher Sforim.
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. The inverse of this expression, "there's a lady who's sure 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". "All that glitters is cold," is also a lyric in the song "Posthuman" by Marilyn Manson from the album "Mechanical Animals".
- "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.
- Not All That Shines Is Not Gold
- All That Glitters Is Not Gold, Huffington Post
- All that glitters is not gold
- "Hyt is not al golde that glareth". World of Quotes. Retrieved 5 April 2016.
- Video on YouTube
- 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.
- Context of Shakespeare's quote at enotes.com