Cry over Spilt Milk (Origin)

What Is the Origin of the Saying "Cry over Spilt Milk"?

The term "cry over spilt milk" means to be upset over something that cannot be fixed, often something minor.

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Cry over Spilt Milk (Origin)

Examples of Use:

  • There's no use in crying over spilt milk; what's done is done, and we can't change the past.
  • She was upset about the mistake she made, but her friends reminded her not to cry over spilt milk and instead focus on finding a solution.
  • He was disappointed about missing the opportunity, but he knew there was no point in crying over spilt milk and decided to move on.
  • Instead of crying over spilt milk, let's learn from our mistakes and avoid similar situations in the future.
  • She realized that dwelling on the past and crying over spilt milk would only hinder her progress; it was time to let go and look ahead.
This idiom often features in a longer sentence such as "do not cry over spilt milk" or "there's no point in crying over spilt milk." In this saying, the "spilt milk" is a metaphor for a bad event that has already happened. It is therefore advice not to dwell pointlessly about a mistake that can no longer be changed.

This saying originates from Welsh historian and author James Howell's "Paramoigraphy (Proverbs)," which was published in 1659. It features the following advice:
  • "No weeping for shed milk."
Over the following century, the wording evolved, and, by 1738, it was recorded as "Tis a folly to cry for spilled milk" by the Irish author Jonathan Swift in a witty essay called "Polite Conversation."

Spilled Milk or Spilt Milk

Grammatically speaking, the word "spilled" or "spilt" is a past participle being used as an adjective. In the UK, the words "spilled" and "spilt" are interchangeable, but not in the US. If you're following US writing conventions, use "spilled." Read more about spilled and spilt.

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This page was written by Craig Shrives.