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

Although the meanings of the words in them do not make any sense when examined one by one, the word groups that are shaped according to the cultural roots of the language and that make sense as a whole are called idioms. Bolt from the blue meaning, in what situations is it used?

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

Beyond the Literal: Figurative Language in Idioms

Idioms often use figurative language to convey a message that is not meant to be taken literally. For instance, the idiom "bite the bullet" means to endure a painful or difficult situation without complaint, while "hold your horses" means to be patient and wait. Other idioms, like "kick the bucket" or "pop your clogs," use euphemisms to talk about death.


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