It Never Rains, But It Pours

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Also: When it rains, it pours

Meaning of Idiom

It Never Rains, But It Pours: When things go wrong or become difficult, they tend to do so one after the other so that negative things happen to excess; when one thing goes wrong, many things go wrong. 1,2


This idiom is usually used to express frustration when several negative things happen at the same time.


"My car broke down so I took my wife's car to work and ended up with a flat tire. It never rains but it pours."

"I was late for work today and I forgot my lunch. Then, when I decided to go out for lunch, I discovered I had left my wallet at home so I had no money. It never rains but it pours."

"The whole house is down with the flu. When it rains, it pours."


This idiom is based on a proverb that was seen at early as 1726 in two published works: A book by John Arbuthnot, who was Queen Anne's doctor, and a paper by Jonathan Swift. Both were titled "It Cannot Rain But It Pours." 3

The present form of the idiom is seen in print as early as the 1820's.

The use of "but" here to introduce an inevitable occurrence is quite archaic. "When it rains, it pours" is a more modern version of the idiom.

Similar expressions are "It is never cold but it freezes" and "it is never warm but hot."

1. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
2. Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.
3. Apperson, George Latimer, et al. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Proverbs. Wordsworth Editions, 2006.

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