Every cloud has a silver lining

Example in use: “Everyone was shocked when he lost his job. But it brought the whole family closer together and then he got his dream job just a few weeks later. He’d never have applied for it if he’d still been in his old job even though he didn’t really enjoy it. It’s so true that every cloud has a silver lining.”

Meaning: Even in a bad situation, there is always something to be positive about or something good will unexpectedly come out of that negative position. A bright side will appear in the darkest times.

Possible German equivalent: In allem Schlechten liegt das Gute im Ansatz schon verborgen.

Possible origin: This idiom is often shortened just to “a silver lining” but the origin of the full form originates from the famous British poet John Milton who wrote the following lines in his work, “Comus” (1634).

“Was I deceived? Or did a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night?
I did not err, there does a sable cloud
Turn out her silver lining on the night
And casts a gleam over this tufted grove.”

In this quote, the “sable cloud” is dark and troublesome while the “silver lining” is actually the moon shining from behind the cloud but the writer uses the metaphor that the cloud itself is bright inside which provides light to the gloom of where they are.

This use of the phrase continued for some time with several references in literature about silver linings and even “Milton’s clouds”. However, it’s not until the mid 1800s that the form we see today appeared in a book by PT Barnum (1869), where he writes, “‘Every cloud,’ says the proverb ‘has a silver lining,’ and so I did not despair.”

Of course, this proverb assumes that you consider the positive light inside the dark cloud and not the fact that something bright might be surrounded by something negative! Are you a “glass half-full” type or a “glass half-empty” person? Whatever you are, here’s hoping you find the silver lining this week.

lining / ˈlaɪ.nɪŋ


Welcome again to our weekly series that hopes to go behind the scenes of some rather typical English expressions.