Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover

Have you ever hastily made a snap judgement purely on the outer look of something? If so, it’s time to turn a new page! As the saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover, so let’s open up this old proverb to see what is on the inside.

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Meaning of “Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover”

To not form an opinion on someone or something based solely on external features. The phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” means appearances can be deceiving, and it suggests that one should not make assumptions merely from what is seen on the surface. Here are three important aspects to consider for the meaning of this phrase:

What It Means
1. Don’t judge a book its cover refers to the idea that you shouldn’t make assumptions about someone or something based on their appearance.
2. Just as a book’s cover may not accurately represent its contents, a person’s appearance may not reveal what they are like on the inside.
3. The phrase serves as a reminder that people or things are not always what they seem at first glance.

Similar: This proverb is also said as “never judge a book by its cover.” It’s similar to other sayings such as “beauty is only skin deep,” and “looks can be deceiving.”

Example: At first, I thought my new coworker looked tough and unapproachable. However, don’t judge a book by its cover because after talking with him, I realized he was a nice person.

Never judge a book by its cover. / yipengge
Even if the cover of a book looks boring, what’s actually inside might surprise you.


1. Looks can be deceiving
2. Beauty is only skin deep
3. It’s what’s on the inside that counts
4. Not everything is what it seems
5. Things are not always as they appear
6. There’s more than meets the eye

Have you ever judged something prematurely, only for it to be very different than what you expected? That’s basically what the saying don’t (or never) judge a book by its cover means. This same idea can be expressed by using one of the synonyms above.

Origin of “Never Judge a Book By Its Cover”

This particular phrase is over 150 years old, but what about its origin? In part, the proverb never judge a book by its cover likely stems from the tendency of people to make judgements before truly getting to know something or someone.

For instance, if a person is looking for a book to read, the book’s cover is typically the first thing to catch their attention. Based solely on the cover, a person may decide whether a book is worth reading. As a result, they could overlook a book simply because the cover appears plain or boring to them. However, if the person would have given the book a chance and looked at the inside, they may have been surprised at what they found.

This expression can also be applied to people since individuals are often judged exclusively on their outward appearance. However, if one takes the time to get to know the person and see what’s on the inside, they might be pleasantly surprised to discover that the person is entirely different from their initial assumptions. In other words, by “opening up” the person and exploring deeper, they may find hidden qualities and characteristics that were not visible on the surface. Therefore, don’t judge a book by its cover, because there could be more to them than meets the eye.

Anyways, this phrase goes back to at least the mid-19th century. It makes an appearance in the newspaper Piqua Democrat, June 1867:

“Don’t judge a book by its cover, see a man by his cloth, as there is often a good deal of solid worth and superior skill underneath a jacket and yellow pants.”

It’s worth mentioning that the print in the newspaper was small and difficult to read. Despite this, an effort was made to quote it as accurately as possible. There was at least enough clarity to make out the phrase for sure.

Examples For “Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover”

To get a better understanding of this saying, let’s look a few examples to illustrate how it is used:


1. The restaurant did not impress me from what I saw on the outside, but the food turned out to be amazing. Don’t judge a book by its cover is what I learned.
2. Although he looked small and frail at the outset, he is actually fast and highly skilled at this game. Never judge a book by its cover, as they say.
3. This old boat may look like a clunker with its weathered exterior, but a closer inspection reveals that it’s in great shape. This goes to show you should not judge a book by the cover.

In this next set of sentences, we will mix things up. After all, there are different ways to express the idea of not judging someone simply by their outward features. The following examples do this by using other phrases that are similar:


1. The bakery doesn’t look like much at first glance, but looks can be deceiving because their bread is the best in town.
2. I wasn’t sure about hiring him since he lacked experience, but not everything is what it seems. He turned out to be a talented, hard working individual.
3. When I met my roommate, she came across as unfriendly and quiet. However, after getting to know her, I realized she’s quite outgoing and funny. I guess things are not always as they appear.

These examples show that you can’t always tell what something is like just by looking at it. In each sentence, notice how an early opinion is formed based only on surface-level observations. Then, after getting to know someone or something better, it becomes apparent that they are very different than what was previously assumed.

There are more popular sayings to read about on here. Take a look at the phrases below if you enjoyed learning about this one.