Crying Over Spilled Milk – History and Meaning

Have you ever gotten upset over something small, and someone said you shouldn’t be “crying over spilled milk”? This saying has an interesting history and meaning.

“Don’t cry over spilled milk” means there’s no point in being upset over something that already happened and cannot be changed. Sometimes this phrase is changed slightly to say, “it’s no use crying over spilled milk.”

There are two ideas about where this phrase came from. The first is a book by James Howell in 1959. It includes the phrase, “No weeping for shed milk.” Then in 1888, this phrase was used in a different book. After one of the characters was robbed, he says, “It was no use, however, crying over spilt milk.”

This phrase has become so popular that it even has a national holiday! February 11th is National Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk Day. It’s a day to shrug off the small stuff and accept the bad things that have happened.

We will leave you with some examples:

She took a deep breath as she looked at the broken vase and said to herself: “well, there is no point crying over spilled milk.”

“Knowing it was an accident, Tom didn’t punish the kids, as he there was no point on crying over spilled milk.”

Related: Read about the phrase “duly noted.”


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By Patrice Riley

Patrice Riley is the pen name of Dr. Deborah Riley. She is a retired English professor that enjoys grammar, literature, and all things writing.

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