Being upset over something that has already happened and cannot be changed.
Note: Usually this phrase is said as “it’s no use crying over spilt milk,” which means that getting upset over certain things, like spilled milk, is not going to fix it.
The Origin Of ‘Crying Over Spilled Milk’
The earliest I could find this phrase in print with the exact wording it has today is from a book called Once A Week, 1872:
“A correspondent of the same paper, who signs himself ‘Octogenarian,’ raised the question of the date when ‘There’s no use crying over spilt milk’ first came into proverbial use.”
As you can see from the quote, this expression was already a known saying at the time, so it must obviously be older. And it is! In a book by Hannah Maria Jones called Katharine Bereford; or, The shade and sunshine of woman’s life, 1852, there’s a part that reads:
“But it’s no use fretting over shed milk.”
However, this saying is apparently even older than that! James Howell, a historian and writer, is said to have used the phrase in a book called called Paramoigraphy (Proverbs), 1659:
“No weeping for shed milk.”
In summary, this phrase is 360 years old at minimum. While plenty of expressions come and go over the centuries, old sayings like this one have stuck around and remain in common use.
- My kids were upset because one of their favorite toys broke; so I comforted them and explained that there’s no use crying over spilt milk.
- The screen on Bill’s phone cracked from falling. While he was angry about it at first, he soon realized that there was no point in crying over spilled milk.
- I accidentally spilled my cereal all over the floor. Cleaning it up will be annoying, but it is what it is.
Note:Sometimes a phrase’s exact origin is unknown. If that happens, you will usually see either an explanation that talks about how the phrase might have originated, or quotes of the expression being used in print, sometimes both. These quotes come from old newspapers, poems, or books. Their purpose is to give you an idea on how far back in history the expression goes.