Looking at the positive side of things even when difficult times are present.
When trying to cheer someone up who is feeling down, someone might use this phrase, then follow it up by saying something positive.
Example: I know you’re disappointed that it’s raining outside and so we can’t go on that picnic we had planned. But every cloud has a silver lining, now we can do something fun indoors, like play a board game with everyone.
Origin Of ‘Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining’
If clouds float in front of the sun, it can look like they have a silver lining around them. That is, the center of the cloud looks darker, while its edges are brighter (you can see this in the picture above). At some point, people must have observed this and with time, it became a saying.
This phrase might also be said only as ‘silver lining,’ without the cloud part. (e.g., our dinner was burnt, but the silver lining is that we can eat a healthy salad instead). The first known use of the phrase in writing, written down simply as “silver lining,” is said to be from John Milton in a book called Comus: A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634:
“Was I deceived, or did a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night?”
As for the saying with its modern wording that people are familiar with today, the earliest I could find it in print is from a book by P.T. Barnum, 1869, where he wrote:
“‘Every cloud,’ says the proverb, ‘has a silver lining,’ and so I did not despair.’ “
- Even though you lost the race, every cloud has a silver lining. The race, for example, helped motivate you to exercise and get back in shape.
Note: The origins for many phrases are not known. When the origins are not clear, what will be listed on the page is a theory or two about how the phrase may have originated, but not necessarily so. If no theory is listed, then there will typically be a quote of the oldest known use of the saying being used in writing, which can give you an idea for the saying’s age.
So, for example, if a book from the year 1700 has a certain phrase written in it, and it’s quoted, that does not necessarily mean the phrase originated from that book or from that year, it simply means that it, the phrase, is at least that old.