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bolt from the blue, a

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Also, a bolt out of the blue. A sudden, unexpected event. For example, Bill's dropping his life insurance was a bolt from the blue for his wife. This metaphoric term alludes to totally unforeseen lightning or thunder from a cloudless (blue) sky. [First half of 1800s]

QUIZ
ARE YOU A TRUE BLUE CHAMPION OF THESE "BLUE" SYNONYMS?
We could talk until we're blue in the face about this quiz on words for the color "blue," but we think you should take the quiz and find out if you're a whiz at these colorful terms.
Question 1 of 8
Which of the following words describes “sky blue”?
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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

BEHIND THE PHRASE

What does a bolt from the blue mean?

The phrase a bolt from the blue means a sudden event that was completely unexpected, as in Jordan’s sudden burst of intensity was like a bolt from the blue, catching everyone off guard. 

Because a bolt from the blue is used to specifically refer to sudden surprises, it is often accompanied by words such as shocking, stunning, unexpected, and surprising.

The phrase a bolt out of the blue is also used.

Example: The surprise appearance of Santa Claus was a wonderful bolt from the blue for the children.

Where does a bolt from the blue come from?

The first records of the phrase a bolt from the blue come from around 1837. A bolt from the blue is a metaphorical phrase referring to a lightning bolt suddenly coming from a clear sky, something you wouldn’t expect. The word bolt refers to a lightning bolt (a flash of lightning), and the blue refers to a clear sky (a stormy sky might be grey or black).

A bolt from the blue often appears in news stories and other descriptions of unexpected events. You might use this phrase when you are surprised by a sudden event that you didn’t expect, like a tornado coming through the area or a surprise birthday party your friends throw for you. (If you want to throw us a surprise party, we promise to be surprised!)

Did you know … ?

What are some other forms related to bolt from the blue?

  • a bolt out of the blue

What are some synonyms for bolt from the blue?

What are some words that share a root or word element with bolt from the blue

What are some words that often get used in discussing bolt from the blue?

How is a bolt from the blue used in real life?

A bolt from the blue is a common phrase used to refer to sudden surprises that the speaker didn’t see coming.

Try using a bolt from the blue!

Is a bolt from the blue used correctly in the following sentence?

The early snow was a bolt from the blue that farmers had been preparing for for weeks.

How to use bolt from the blue, a in a sentence

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