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 writing 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! There is a book by Hannah Maria Jones called Katharine Bereford; or, The shade and sunshine of woman’s life, 1852, and a part from it 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 they burned their toast, so I told them it’s no use crying over spilt milk and to just throw it away. They can always make more.
- Bill’s car was was totaled in an accident. At first he was beside himself with anger, but he realized there was no point crying over spilled milk.