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Why do we say "There are other fish in the sea"?

Well-Known Expressions

There are other fish in the sea

Meaning:

Don't be upset about the one you've lost (girlfriend, boyfriend, job etc) - there are plenty others out there.

Background:

Sources say that this expression is first recorded around 1573 but usually don't note where. It appears that this 1573 reference is in a letter from English writer Gabriel Harvey to the poet Edmund Spenser, who may have once been Harvey's pupil. Correspondence between the two was collected into a volume in 1884: The Letter-Book of Gabriel Harvey.

Tis a written veritye,
Quote owlde Senior C.,
All prooves on whether you speede or misse,
In the mayne sea theres good stoare of fishe,
And in delicate gardens and in gourgeous bowers,
Theres allwayes greate varietye of desirable flowers

By the early 19th century the expression had taken on forms closer to those used today:


There never was a fish taken out of the sea, but left anothe as good behind. (Thomas Love Peacock in Headlong Hall, 1816)

Ye need not sigh sae deeply.... There are as gude fish in the sea as ever came out of it. (Sir Walter Scott in The Fortunes of Nigel, 1822)

Alphabetical list of expressions

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