Don’t judge a book by its cover

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| Grammarist

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| Proverb

Don’t judge a book by its cover is a proverb. A proverb is a short, common saying or phrase that may be a famous quote, an inspirational quote, an epigram, or the topic of a parable. These common sayings are language tools or figures of speech that particularly give advice or share a universal truth, or impart wisdom. Synonyms for proverb include adage, aphorism, sayings, and byword, which can also be someone or something that is the best example of a group. Often, a proverb is so familiar that a speaker will only quote half of it, relying on the listener to supply the ending of the written or spoken proverb himself because these common phrases and popular sayings are so well known. Certain phrases may be a metaphor or a quotation; but if it is a proverb, it is often-used and has a figurative meaning. Speakers of English as a second language are sometimes confused by these pithy sayings as translations from English to other languages do not carry the impact that the English phrases carry. Some common proverbs are the wise sayings better late than never; early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise; an apple a day keeps the doctor away; don’t cry over spilt milk; actions speak louder than words; haste makes waste, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth; and a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. One of the books of the Bible is the Book of Proverbs, which contains words and phrases that are still often quoted in the English language because they are wise. Many current proverbs are quotations taken from literature, particularly Shakespeare, as well as the Bible and other sacred writings. We will examine the meaning of the proverb don’t judge a book by its cover, where the expression came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Don’t judge a book by its cover is an admonishment to not judge someone or something simply on appearances; a proverb with a similar sentiment is appearances can be deceiving. The expression don’t judge a book by its cover, sometimes rendered as you can’t judge a book by its cover, is traced to the novel The Mill on the Floss, written by George Eliot in 1860. In the novel, the reference is to a physical book; within decades the expression came to be used metaphorically, though its popularity soared in the mid-20th century.


One of Marcus Rashford’s tattoos says ‘never judge a book by its cover’ and one should never judge a player off an international tournament. (Manchester Evening News)

“You have to meet him in person to know who he really is, you don’t judge a book by its cover.” (Sun News)

I think it’s just a really wonderful moment, if you do pick up on it as an audience member, to say wow, as cliche as it may sound, you can’t judge a book by its cover, and you need to take the time to understand and empathize. (Hollywood Reporter)

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