The Meaning of Silver Lining: What It Is and How To Use It

Have you ever been confused by the definition of silver lining? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word silver lining, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word silver lining mean?

According to Merriam-Webster, Collins and the American Heritage Unabridged Dictionary of the English language, the term silver lining is a proverb and idiom that refers to an element of hope or redeeming quality that can be found even with a disappointing turnout. This metaphoric term is a shortening of every cloud has a silver lining. The phrase silver lining was first used in John Milton’s Comus from 1637. This phrase centers around optimism or a sign of hope or hopeful aspect from a gloomy situation. Its usage is idiomatic, implying that even dark clouds and the worst situation, circumstance or tough time have light aspects or a good situation that one can gleam. 

What is the origin of the phrase silver lining?

According to Dartmouth, the term silver lining was first used in the epic poem Comus by John Milton. After this, they were commonly referred to as Milton’s clouds and slowly transformed into the phrae “every cloud has a silver lining.” This term was first used inthe 1800s in The Dublin Magazine, Volume 1, 1840, in a review of the novel Marian; or, a Young Maid’s Fortunes, by Mrs S. Hall, by Katty Macane per Phrases.

The section of John Milton’s poem is below:

This way the noise was, if mine ear be true, [ 170 ]

My best guide now, me thought it was the sound

Of Riot, and ill-manag’d Merriment,

Such as the jocund Flute, or gamesom Pipe

Stirs up among the loose unleter’d Hinds,

When for their teeming Flocks, and granges full [ 175 ]

In wanton dance they praise the bounteous Pan,

And thank the gods amiss. I should be loath

To meet the rudeness, and swill’d insolence

Of such late Wassailers; yet O where els

Shall I inform my unacquainted feet [ 180 ]

In the blind mazes of this tangl’d Wood?

My Brothers when they saw me wearied out

With this long way, resolving here to lodge

Under the spreading favour of these Pines,

Stept as they se’d to the next Thicket side [ 185 ]

To bring me Berries, or such cooling fruit

As the kind hospitable Woods provide.

They left me then, when the gray-hooded Eev’n

Like a sad Votarist in Palmers weed

Rose from the hindmost wheels of Phoebus wain. [ 190 ]

But where they are, and why they came not back,

Is now the labour of my thoughts; ’tis likeliest

They had ingag’d their wandring steps too far,

And envious darknes, e’re they could return,

Had stole them from me, els O theevish Night [ 195 ]

Why shouldst thou, but for som fellonious end,

In thy dark lantern thus close up the Stars,

That nature hung in Heav’n, and fill’d their Lamps

With everlasting oil, to give due light

To the misled and lonely Travailer? [ 200 ]

This is the place, as well as I may guess,

Whence eev’n now the tumult of loud Mirth

Was rife, and perfet in my list’ning ear,

Yet nought but single darknes do I find.

What might this be? A thousand fantasies [ 205 ]

Begin to throng into my memory

Of calling shapes and beckning shadows dire,

And airy tongues, that syllable mens names

On Sands, and Shoars, and desert Wildernesses.

These thoughts may startle well, but not astound [ 210 ]

The vertuous mind, that ever walks attended

By a strong siding champion Conscience.——

O welcom pure-ey’d Faith, white-handed Hope,

Thou hov’ring Angel girt with golden wings,

And thou unblemish’t form of Chastity, [ 215 ]

I see ye visibly, and now beleeve

That he, the Supreme good, t’ whom all things ill

Are but as slavish officers of vengeance,

Would send a glistring Guardian if need were

To keep my life and honour unassail’d. [ 220 ]

Was I deceiv’d, or did a sable cloud

Turn forth her silver lining on the night?

I did not err, there does a sable cloud

Turn forth her silver lining on the night,

And casts a gleam over this tufted Grove. [ 225 ]

I cannot hallo to my Brothers, but

Such noise as I can make to be heard farthest

Ile venter, for my new enliv’n’d spirits

Prompt me; and they perhaps are not far off.

How can the word silver lining be used in a sentence?

The word silver lining can be used in many different contexts in the English language. Trying to use a word in a sentence is one of the best ways to memorize its definition and add it to your vocabulary, but you can also try making flashcards or quizzes that test your knowledge. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today! Below are a couple of  examples of the word silver lining that can help get you started incorporating this word into your vocabulary.  

The English teacher found a silver lining in losing her job at the public school. She could take time off to go back to school and get a new job as a professor.

The silver lining of being cut from her scene on the silver screen was that no one would have to see her in that ugly button up sweater.

The silver lining of the prolonged recession was that the parents got more time at home to raise their daughter. Money was tight, but they were able to give her their undivided attention.

Overall, the word silver lining means finding a positive thing in difficult times. Even if one is in an unpleasant situation, there is good to be found.


  1. Comus: Text – Hanover | Dartmouth 
  2. ‘Every cloud has a silver lining’ – the meaning and origin of this phrase | Phrases 
  3. Silver Lining | Definition of Silver Lining | Merriam-Webster