All that glitters is not gold is a well-known saying, meaning that not everything that looks precious or true turns out to be so. This can apply to persons, places, or things that promise to be more than they really are. The expression, in various forms, originated in or before the 12th century and may date back to Aesop. Chaucer gave two early versions in English: “But all thing which that schyneth as the gold / Ne is no gold, as I have herd it told,” and “Hyt is not al golde that glareth.” The popular form of the expression is a derivative of a line in William Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice, which employs the word “glisters,” a 17th-century synonym for “glitters.” The line comes from a secondary plot of the play, the puzzle of Portia’s boxes (Act II – Scene VII – Prince of Morocco):
All that glisters is not gold;
Often have you heard that told:
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold:
Gilded tombs do worms enfold.
Had you been as wise as bold,
Young in limbs, in judgement old
Your answer had not been inscroll’d
Fare you well, your suit is cold.
Panning for gold often results in finding pyrite, nicknamed fool’s gold, which reflects substantially more light than authentic gold does. Gold in its raw form appears dull and does not glitter. “Not all that glitters is gold” is an alternative formulation. The inverse of this expression, “All that glitters is gold,” is a lyric in the Led Zeppelin song, “Stairway to Heaven”, the Smash Mouth song, “All Star” and theDeath in Vegas song, “All That Glitters”. It is also used as lyrics in the song “A Guided Masquerade” by Alesana. A variation of the saying is used in Kid Cudi’s song “Pursuit of Happiness”, in which it goes: “I’m on the pursuit of happiness and I know everything that shine ain’t always gonna be gold.”