What does the idiom "Bolt from the blue" mean?

You are wondering about the meaning of the phrase Bolt from the blue, maybe you heard it in a TV show, movie or theater play. Although this idiom is not used very often, it enriches your capacity of expression and strengthens communication. In which case is the expression Bolt from the blue used and what is its meaning?

Meaning of "Bolt from the blue"


The phrase "bolt from the blue" is an idiom which is used to describe the sudden, unexpected and shocking occurrence of a particular event or situation. As the phrase suggests, the event may feel as shocking and unexpected as a lightning bolt or other natural phenomenon that comes out of nowhere and can have a powerful and destructive impact. In most cases, this phrase is used to describe a negative event.


The origin of this phrase can be traced back to ancient Greek and Roman mythology, specifically the god of thunder, Zeus or Jupiter. In many myths, Zeus or Jupiter would launch lightning bolts (or thunderbolts) at those who had angered him, suddenly and unexpectedly. Over time, the phrase has evolved to refer to any sudden, unexpected event.


The phrase "bolt from the blue" generally has a negative connotation as it is used to describe a sudden, unexpected setback or tragedy. It is typically used to describe any event which felt sudden and unexpected, even if it was not actually a literal lightning bolt from the sky. For example, someone might say that a death in the family was a bolt from the blue, signifying that it was shocking and unexpected for the family. This phrase can also be used in a more light-hearted manner, however, to describe surprise events that may be positive. For example, someone may describe a surprise party as a bolt from the blue.

Example Sentences

  • The news of his sudden death was a bolt from the blue.
  • Winning the scholarship was a bolt from the blue, and I was ecstatic.
  • The surprise party was a bolt from the blue, and none of us expected it.

The meanings of the words in the "Bolt from the blue" idiom

The universal role of idioms

"Kill two birds with one stone" is an English idiom that means to accomplish two things with a single action. In French, the similar idiom is "Faire d'une pierre deux coups," which translates to "To kill two birds with one stone." This idiom highlights the efficiency of completing two tasks with one action.


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