What does the idiom "cry over spilt milk" mean?

The phrase cry over spilt milk is often used in English, but what does this idiom mean? When idioms are used in the right situations, they strengthen communication and enrich the language. You can communicate more effectively by learning the meaning of cry over spilt milk.

Meaning of "cry over spilt milk"


The idiom "cry over spilt milk" is used to express the idea that there is no use in dwelling on the past and mourning over things that have already happened and cannot be changed. It is used to encourage the person to put their energy into the present and future, rather than mourning the past. The focus should be on what can be changed and improved, not what has already gone wrong.


The exact origin of this phrase is unknown, but it has been used in English as far back as the 16th century. The phrase originally appeared in the form “cry for spilt milk” and was first recorded in 1520 in John Palsgrave’s French-English dictionary, Lesclarcissement de la langue françoyse. It was popularized in the 19th century when it was adopted as part of common idiom. It is likely that the phrase is derived from the Biblical parable in the Book of Matthew, “And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:28-29)


The phrase “cry over spilt milk” is used in a variety of contexts to express the idea that it is unproductive to mourn past mistakes or events. It is used as a way to encourage the person to focus on the present and future, rather than the past. It can be seen in everyday speech, literature, and even in informal business conversations to suggest that a person should not lament what has already been done. For example, someone might say “There’s no use in crying over spilt milk, let’s figure out a way to fix this.”

Example Sentences

  • Don't cry over spilt milk; it's not going to do any good. Just focus on what you can do to make things better.
  • There's no point in crying over spilt milk; we just have to

The meanings of the words in the "cry over spilt milk" idiom

The Global Spread of English Idioms

As English has become a global language, its idioms have spread far beyond the borders of the UK and USA. For instance, the idiom "beat around the bush" has equivalents in many other languages, such as "tourner autour du pot" in French and "dar vueltas al asunto" in Spanish. Meanwhile, other idioms have been adapted for local contexts, such as the Russian idiom "?? ???? ???????" (ne svoya rubashka), which translates to "not one's own shirt," meaning to be in an uncomfortable or unfamiliar situation.


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