silver lining

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a sign of hope in an unfortunate or gloomy situation; a bright prospect: Every cloud has a silver lining.
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Origin of silver lining

First recorded in 1870–75
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does silver lining mean?

A silver lining is a sign of hope or a positive aspect in an otherwise negative situation.

The phrase is often seen as part of the proverb Every cloud has a silver lining, meaning that there’s hope or something good to be found in every bad situation. In real life, when a cloud looks like its edges are shining and silvery, it’s because the sun is behind it. That’s the metaphor: things are cloudy (bad), but they will get sunny (positive) again—or you can least enjoy the one shiny (positive) part in all the gloominess.

Example: Getting your tonsils out is a bummer, but there’s a silver lining—you get to eat a lot of ice cream afterward.

Where does silver lining come from?

Poet John Milton wrote about a cloud with a silver lining all the way back in 1637, but the first records of proverbs about clouds with silver linings come from the 1800s.

Since then, the phrase silver lining (and silver linings) has continued to be popularly used to point out the positive aspects in less than ideal circumstances. The silver lining in such a situation can be a general sense of hope, as in I know things are bad now, but you just wait, there will be a silver lining to all of this (meaning things will get better). It is also commonly used to refer to a specific positive part of a negative situation, as in I missed the concert, but there was a silver lining—I met your father that night in the parking lot.

The phrase is often used as a way to encourage someone to be optimistic or “look on the bright side.” If a person is good at doing this, you might describe them as “always being able to see the silver lining.”

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to silver lining?

  • silver linings (plural)

What are some synonyms for silver lining?

What are some words that share a root or word element with silver lining

What are some words that often get used in discussing silver lining?


How is silver lining used in real life?

Silver lining is most often used when trying to encourage people. It is commonly used as part of the expression Every cloud has a silver lining.



Try using silver lining!

Which of the following words is least likely to be associated with silver lining?

A. hope
B. optimism
C. positivity
D. pessimism

How to use silver lining in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for silver lining

silver lining

a comforting or hopeful aspect of an otherwise desperate or unhappy situation (esp in the phrase every cloud has a silver lining)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Other Idioms and Phrases with silver lining

silver lining

An element of hope or a redeeming quality in an otherwise bad situation, as in The rally had a disappointing turnout, but the silver lining was that those who came pledged a great deal of money. This metaphoric term is a shortening of Every cloud has a silver lining, in turn derived from John Milton's Comus (1634): “A sable cloud turns forth its silver lining on the night.”

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.