Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining (Origin)

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Origin of the Saying "Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining"?

The term "every cloud has a silver lining" means that every bad situation has a positive aspect to it. It is usually said when an unforeseen benefit derives from a negative scenario.
Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining (Origin)
The term "silver lining" was coined by the English poet John Milton in his 1634 poem "A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle":
  • "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 forth her silver lining on the night,
    And casts a gleam over this tufted grove."
Clouds with silver linings (a common sight on a cloudy day) are still sometimes called "Milton's clouds."

One version of the saying appears in "The Dublin Magazine, Volume 1" in 1840:
  • "There's a silver lining to every cloud that sails about the heavens if we could only see it."
  • (This was the original wording of the proverb.)
The saying as we know it today was popularized by an American writer, Sarah Payton Parton, who penned popular motivational essays for the "Home Journal" magazine under the nom de plume Fanny Fern. One of her best-known works was her 1853 essay "Nil Desperandum" (do not despair), which included "Every cloud has a silver lining" in the first line:
  • "NO, NEVER! Every cloud has a silver lining; and He who wove it knows when to turn it out. So, after every night, however long or dark, there shall yet come a golden morning."

Examples of Use:

  • My divorce was a nightmare, but my new partner is brilliant. Every cloud has a silver lining.
  • We're snowed in, I'm afraid. You won't be able to get home tonight. However, the landlord has agreed to keep the bar open. Every cloud has a silver lining.
  • The CEO is putting you under a lot of pressure at the moment, Toby. Don't worry though. I suspect you'll be top of his list to take over the department when Janice leaves. Every cloud has a silver lining.

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