Proverb: All that Glitters is not Gold


The informant didn’t initially understand what a proverb was, prompting me to provide an explanation. From there, it only took them a brief moment for one to come to mind.

They stumbled through their recitation, “I have one- well, is it a proverb? I’m sure you heard it before.”

“What is it?”

“All that glitters is not gold.” They laughed, “I heard it from Spongebob. Didn’t really get it until later though.”


The proverb isn’t something that the informant uses often, but they say that it came to mind because it’s standard, genuinely good advice.

The informant first heard this proverb from the Nickelodeon T.V. show Spongebob Squarepants. After coming across it there, they looked to their family for an explanation on its meaning.

The informant interprets this proverb as “When someone thinks something is good, but it isn’t.” They gave the example of a person getting a dream job they heard was great, only for it to be terrible for them and not what they thought it would be. “It’s something that was precious to them, but actually turned out to be their downfall.”


“All that glitters is not gold” seems like the type of proverb that’s common to know, but not as common to say or hear someone say (at least, in recent times), lending it the status of “an oldie, but a goodie.” The proverb elicits an immediate visual component where the audience compares a mental image of a nondescript “thing” glittering and a piece of gold. The inherent value of gold stands out and serves to contrast the glittering object. By essentially stating “just because it glitters, that doesn’t mean it’s gold,” the audience is immediately warned of their interest in the stand-in for the glittering object. It warrants caution and prevents a leap of faith into engaging with something just the slightest bit glittery.