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It’s always darkest before the dawn

“It’s always darkest before the dawn” is a famous proverb that dates back to at least 1650. It’s used to suggest that one needs to preserve through hard times.

It’s right before things get better that they are the hardest. It’s unclear who coined the phrase, “It’s always darkest before the dawn,” but it’s widely used today. So much so that some people might find it cliché.

It’s always darkest before the dawn meaning


“It’s always darkest before the dawn” describes an attitude towards hardship. It suggests that when one is suffering the most, they’re the closest to making it out of their suffering.

It’s similar to the idea of hitting rock bottom. There, when things are at the darkest, is when one is about to see the dawn. The dark, in this metaphor, represents whatever struggle one is engaged in. This could be anything from a financial, marital, social, or political problem. The dawn represents the time when things start to get better. The sun comes up, the darkness clears, and the path is laid out clearly in front of one’s eyes.


The phrase “it’s always darkest before the dawn” was first used by English theologian Thomas Fuller in 1650. It appeared in his work A Pisgah-Sight of Palestine and the Confines Thereof. But, this doesn’t mean that he was the first person to ever use the phrase or one with similar meaning. In 1650, the proverb read:

It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth.

As is often the case with idioms and proverbs, especially those that date to the 1600 or 1700s, the exact phrasing has changed.

It’s unclear exactly where this proverb came from. Some have suggested that Fuller did, in fact, coin it. Others have posed the more likely possibility that he was quoting it from an unknown other source. In a work by Samuel Lover, as noted by Phrases, the proverb might’ve come from Ireland. He wrote:

There is a beautiful saying amongst the Irish peasantry to inspire hope under adverse circumstances:- “Remember,” they say, “that the darkest hour of all. is the hour before day.”

Once again, the phrase is not in the exact form that it’s known today. As time passed, the exact phrasing solidified into the version used commonly today.

When to Use

It’s possible to use “it’s always darkest before the dawn” in a wide variety of situations. One might use it when they’re describing a personal struggle or a situation that a friend, family member, or colleague is in. It could also be used to speak about a group of people’s prospects or even the fate of a company or organization. Considering the variety of situations one might find the phrase, it’s fairly easy to come up with possible scenarios.

For example, a friend might be going through a hard time while looking for a job. Your response to their struggles could be this proverb. You would be reminding them that their handwork is going to pay off, and as long as they keep looking, they’re going to find a job they want.

Alternatively, the phrase might be used to speak about someone’s choice to give up rather than continue to struggle through a particular hardship. For example, one partner decides to leave a failing marriage when things are at their worst. This proverb could be used to chastise them, suggesting that if they’d stuck around a little longer, things might’ve gotten better.

Example Sentences

  • Don’t worry. It’s always darkest before the dawn.
  • Before long, you’re going to feel better, and you’ll see that it’s always darkest before the dawn.
  • How long before you realize that it’s always darkest before the dawn.
  • It always helps to remember that it’s always darkest before the dawn.

Why Do Writers Use the Phrase?

Writers use “it’s always darkest before the dawn” in the same way and for the same reasons that it’s used by everyday people. It could appear in a conversation between two characters in a novel, short story, or even in a poem. The phrase is quite well known. This means that almost every reader who sees it is going to know what it means. Proverbs, unlike idioms, do not take context to understand. “It’s always darkest before the dawn” is straightforward and powerful. It’s also subjective. One reader might find that it’s true, while another might doubt how much it has to say about reality. This could make a piece of writing different for different readers.


Why do people say, “it’s always darkest before the dawn?”

People say “it’s always darkest before the dawn” when they want to provide comfort to someone who is suffering or reminding themselves that what they’re going through is eventually going to end.

Is “it’s always darkest before the dawn” a metaphor?

It is a metaphor in that it compares one thing, the problem, to darkness and the eventual solution or ending to the dawn. Often, metaphors are at the heart of proverbs and idioms.

Who first said, “it’s always darkest before the dawn?”

It’s unclear who first used the phrase “it’s always darkest before the dawn.” But, that’s often the case for even the best-known phrases.

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