What does the idiom "There are clouds on the horizon" mean?

Are you using the idiom There are clouds on the horizon but not sure about its meaning? Using idioms, which are important elements of spoken and written language, in the right place strengthens your language skills. Examine the meaning of the There are clouds on the horizon idiom and the situations in which it is used.

Meaning of "There are clouds on the horizon"


The phrase ‘There are clouds on the horizon’ is a common idiom used to refer to the possibility of impending danger or difficulty, typically related to a situation or event. It is a metaphor, used to signify that potential danger or trouble is approaching, and the prospect of resolution or success is uncertain. This phrase is typically used to warn or advise of a potential issue that may arise, and to suggest caution or preparedness should these issues materialize.


The origin of this phrase is typically credited to the historical works of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus. Heraclitus used the analogy of clouds forming on the horizon to describe difficulty or danger arising from afar – noting that by the time it is visible, it may already be too late to prepare for. This concept has been adopted by many other writers and philosophers over the centuries, and remains a popularly used metaphor today.


This phrase is typically used to refer to the potential of danger or difficulty arising in a particular situation. It can be used to point out potential issues or dangers, or to suggest caution and preparedness against a potential outcome. It can also be used as an expression of caution or warning against a particular decision, or to warn of potential repercussions or consequences that may arise. It adds a sense of caution or of the need to take care, especially when there are potential risks or dangers associated with an action or situation.

Example Sentences

  • “There are clouds on the horizon; we should be prepared for any eventuality.”
  • “I can see the possibility of problems arising, there are clouds on the horizon.”
  • “We should proceed with caution - there are clouds on the horizon we may not be aware of.”
  • “Be wise in your decisions - there are clouds on the horizon.”
  • “If you proceed without caution, there are clouds on the horizon that could lead to trouble.”

The meanings of the words in the "There are clouds on the horizon" 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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