All that Glitters is not Gold - Meaning, Examples, Origin, Expansion, Importance

Meaning

The proverb ‘all that glitters isn’t gold’ means that everything that looks beautiful or tempting to eyes may not be good for us. In other words, the proverb implies that appearance may be deceiving. We shouldn’t judge a thing purely based on its appearance, but rather, should have a closer and deeper look.

For instance, there are many fruits found in the wild that look sweet and juicy but are rather poisonous. The main purpose of the proverb is to warn us before putting our trust in something or someone, based purely on appearance.

Examples

An example is a better way to understand the true meaning of a proverb. Keeping this in mind I am giving below some interesting examples based on the proverb ‘All that glitters is not gold’.

“The instructor shouted at the hikers – don’t dare to eat that cashew. Don’t you know that raw cashew is poisonous? Perhaps, all that glitters is not gold!”

“In today’s life, everyone wants to live a life of luxury and fame, without knowing that such life has its own problems and complications. We must understand that all that glitters is not gold.”

“One of my friends bought a very beautiful speaker from the second-hand market. The piece looked brand new but didn’t even last a month. Someone has rightly said that ‘all that glitters is not gold’.”

“Never ever judge a man based on his appearance – the clothes he wears or the car he drives, because many deceitful men in history have been charming and handsome. After all, all that glitters is not gold.”

“My Shimla trip was a nightmare. I had checked in a hotel that looked cozy from outside but was rather filthy and below standard. Wish, I would have known that all that glitters is not gold.”

Origin

Not exact the proverb but rather a phrase with similar meaning appeared in the 12th century, credit to the French monk, Alain de Lille who wrote ‘do not hold everything gold that shines like gold’. The monk, very clearly states that everything that looks shiny and tempting as gold, might not be so, after all. The phrase has the same inference as ‘all that glitters isn’t gold’.

Chaucer, who is considered the greatest English poet of the middle ages, has also mentioned similar phrases in his couple of poems. In Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale, he wrote “but all that thing, which shines as the gold, is not gold, as that I have heard it told.”

The more exact phrase as the proverb appears in William Shakespeare’s play the Merchant of Venice. But instead of glitters another synonym ‘glisters’ is used. I am giving below just a couple of lines from the play, for your reference - These lines have been written in the context of a Prince of Morocco and Portia (A beautiful and wealthy woman). She asks the prince to choose a box that contains her portrait without watching inside. Then she will marry him, the prince thinks she is so beautiful that she will keep it in the gold cage. He chooses the golden cage and fails. Then Portia said these lines:

"All that glisters is not gold –

Often have you heard that told.

Many a man his life hath sold

But my outside to behold."

Today, the proverb is in popular use across the world.

Expansion of the Proverb

All that glitters is not gold states that not everything that shines and looks like gold is actually so. Something that appears good from outside may be harmful and unworthy in reality. The proverb applies to things as well as humans.

How many times did you come across a good looking and handsome person who rather has a mean and devious heart? Who looks beautiful and is well dressed but doesn’t care about other’s emotions and feelings. This is exactly what the proverb teaches us. It tells us that appearance alone can’t be a criterion to judge the true worth of a person. On the other hand, a person looking dirty and filthy by appearance might have a golden heart.

The same philosophy applies to things as well. Many things that look shiny and brand new from outside aren’t so durable and trustworthy from inside. You may have bought a second-hand car that looked just brand new but didn’t last for a year. You never know what lies inside if you make your judgment based on appearance.

Importance

The proverb warns us against making an opinion about a person, place, or thing, purely based on their appearance alone. Such opinion or judgment may be flawed as appearances are deceptive. What we see might only be an illusion while the truth can’t be seen with naked eyes.

The proverb is advice for students as well as working professionals. While deciding about their future career, many youths just look at the glamour associated with different career options. They tend to choose a career that offers a glamorous and comfy life, without understanding the true experiences of it. A career that looks promising and rewarding at first glance might not be so. This is what the proverb teaches us. We must not take important decisions in haste, just based on how beautiful and rewarding something looks on outside.

Similarly, the proverb has morale for everyone from every walk of life. It teaches us to make more practical and insightful decisions in the case of people, places, careers, or things.

Short Stories on ‘All that Glitters is not Gold’

A well-written story on the proverb will make you better understand the meaning of the proverb; hence, I am giving below a couple of fresh stories on the proverb ‘All that glitters is not gold.’

Short Story 1

Amar was a teenage boy from a middle-class family studying in a reputed school. He had a classmate named Kishore, who was good looking and was also soft-spoken. Kishore also belonged to a wealthy family and everything he used was costly.

Being from a normal background, Amar was instantly attracted to the glamour of Kishore and wanted to befriend him. He approached Kishore and they became friends, eating and playing together while in school.

Amar used to think that everything in Kishore’s family must be possible as good as Kishore himself. The boy had conceived an opinion about Kishore and his family just on the fact how cool Kishore looks in a school. Amar shared his thoughts with his father, who would reply saying that ‘All that glitters is not gold.’ But, Amar just wouldn’t understand what it means.

One day it was Kishore’s birthday and Amar was invited. Being a close friend he went a little early than others. There a new personality trait of Kishore revealed itself. It wasn’t a polite and soft-spoken Kishore, but a harsh, mean and ill-mannered boy who was scolding his servants for small mistakes. Amar didn’t like this revelation about his friend’s personality and was back home too soon, thinking that he failed in judging the true personality of Kishore. Suddenly a realization came to his mind that he finally understands the true meaning of his father’s words – ‘All that glitters is not gold.’

Short Story 2

Once, in a forest, there lived a family of beautiful Kingfisher birds – mother, father, and their two newborn chicks. The chicks were curious and always enthusiastic about exploring new horizons. They peck on bright fruits and bright insects, without ascertaining the facts. This worried the mother woodpecker as she knew that many bright and beautiful things in the forest are often dangerous. She would often warn her chicks to stay away from bright fruits and insects.

One day the parents flew out in search of food and the chicks decided to explore the surroundings. There was this big tree with bright yellow fruits, which they had always wanted to eat. However, their mother had always warned then to not do so. Despite their mother’s warnings, the little chicks flew to the tree and started eating that bright yellow fruit. The fruit was sweet and they have happily savored it for some time. What they don’t realize was that in such a big forest, there was no other bird that was eating that fruit. It was just those two of them.

After some time they fell unconscious and fell to the ground. They were spotted by their parents when they returned. Mother kingfisher desperately tried to revive her chicks by giving water through her beak. Thankfully, the chicks’ consciousness returned and they started crying. The parents consoled them and told them to remember the most useful advice in the forest – ‘All that glitters is not gold.’