All That Glitters Is Not Gold

Meaning of Idiom ‘All that Glitters is Not Gold’

All that glitters is not gold means that just because something is externally attractive it is not good or desirable. In other words, although something may appear to have high value, it may be worthless. 1Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.2Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.,3Bengelsdorf, Peter. Idioms in the News – 1,000 Phrases, Real Examples. N.p.: Amz Digital Services, 2012.

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This idiom, used as a standalone phrase, can refer to persons, ideas, objects, etc. Often ‘all that glitters’ is used alone, especially in news stories. This usage is often a play on the idiom to refer to actual shiny objects, especially gold, diamonds, jewelry, etc., such as in this example:

“He consciously rejected the trappings of a wealthy lifestyle and “all that glitters” for a simple life.”

Examples Of Use

“Be careful when buying a house and make sure you do a thorough inspection. Some houses may look great on the outside but remember, all that glitters is not gold.”

“I really wanted a sports car and this one looked so awesome. I found out the hard way that all that glitters is not gold. It’s been in the shop constantly since I bought it.”

“Such comprehensive tax cuts seemed to be a boon to the people. All that glitters is not gold, however.”


This idiom derives from an old proverb, appearing in various writings since at least the 1850’s, including Aesop’s Fables, where it appeared in similar wording as early as 1175. 4Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

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