‘All That Glitters Is Not Gold’ – Meaning, Origin, Explanation and Teachings

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‘All That Glitters Is Not Gold’ – Meaning, Origin, Explanation and Teachings

Introduction: Many things shine as bright as gold. Though our eyes get attracted towards them, we do not value them only because of their appearance.


The saying ‘all that glitters is not gold’ means that ‘outward appearances are often delusive, and an attractive outer appearance of a person of thing doesn’t always indicate its real nature.’

It highlights the fact that ‘gold is valued as a precious metal, not for its color, but for its intrinsic worth’. Similarly, we should judge a person, not by outward appearance, but for their inner qualities. It further means that:

  • not everything that glitters or shines as bright as gold is as precious or valuable as gold,
  • not everything that superficially appears to be very valuable is as valuable as they appear to be,
  • things that appear to be of great value often turn out to be works of imitation, and
  • real characters of apparently bright personalities often turn out to be terrible and frightening.

So, while something may glitter (look beautiful or appealing) it may not necessarily be gold (authentically good or valuable).

This proverb can be taken in two senses viz. metaphorical and literal.

Metaphorically, it suggests that:

  • We should be cautious before giving our approval.
  • Not all appealing ideas are valuable.
  • Not all initially-appealing people are good.

Literally it means that not all beautiful objects are valuable.


This proverb originates in William Shakespeare’s play ‘The Merchant of Venice’. The concept is very old and is found in works that date back to 1100-1200 A.D. Though there are various ways to saying the same thing, the present form of the proverb is found in William Shakespeare’s work when he says, ‘all that glisters is not gold”. The word ‘glisters’ is not replaced by ‘glitters’ in common usage.

Latin version: The Latin equivalent is ‘Non omne quod nitet aurum est” meaning ‘not all that sparkle or glitters is gold”.


Gold is a very bright and valuable metal. Its color is yellow and looks very beautiful. The extremely shining object is a delight for our eyes. Gold has many use. It is widely used to make expensive jewelries. It is also used in some live saving drugs. The flakes of gold are now being increasingly used in cosmetic and beauty creams.

However, appearances are often deceptive. All shining objects that delights us are not as valuable as gold. If we look around, we will find that there are many things that shine and looks like gold. Though in reality, they are not as worthy as gold, but they apparently look as amazing as gold.

Sometimes, bad people wear the veil of innocence. A wicked person may appear to be a gentle-person if he behaves well, wears a good set of dress, and speaks well.  Taking advantage of the innocence of other people, they try to cheat other people. For this reason, it is important to understand that not every person who appears to be a good person is necessarily a good person.

Moreover, we should be careful in determining the true nature of people we meet. We should not blindly trust anyone without validating facts. We should not judge the character of a person by his external appearances. The true test of a man’s character lies in his actions. A person who is persistent with his good actions is likely to be a person of good character.

There are many products available in the market. They are packaged in a way that they are original and very useful. A closer examination of these products would reveal that many of them are imitated products of some other original brand. Thus, not everything that looks great externally always proves to be genuine products.


The proverb teaches that we should consider the usefulness of a product while considering buying it. Similarly, we should look at the inner nature of people while dealing with them. It further teaches us that not every person that shines bright externally is a person of bright character. We should exercise care and caution while judging people and things.

Similarly, a person may appear to be a modest and simple person in his appearance, but he may be a person of great learning and wisdom. Remember the saying, ‘still water runs deep”.


We should never allow ourselves to be dazzled by the glossy appearance of something that glitters like gold. Instead, we should try to collect full knowledge to grasp the real nature of people, thing or situation. A food that is sweet to the taste may be injurious to health. Thus, we should not take things the way they seem to us. We should always remember that all that glitters is not gold.

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