cry over spilt milk


cry over spilt milk,
also, cry over spilled milk


  • to cry about past events that cannot be undone.
  • to be upset about things that have already been done.
  • to dwell pointlessly on a mistake that can no longer be changed.
  • to be upset about past misfortunes.
  • to feel sorry about something that has already happened.

Example Sentences

  1. While it’s sad that the results have not been as good as you expected, you should now focus on moving ahead and achieving better results next time; there is no use crying over spilt milk.
  2. Valarie’s car was badly damaged in the accident, and he was angry about what had happened, but he soon realized that there was no use crying over spilled milk.
  3. It’s no use crying over spilt milk; it was a bad investment, the money has been lost, and there’s nothing we can do.
  4. Mona was unable to accept the reality of her divorce. She was crying over spilled milk.
  5. The school trip had been a disaster, but we did not want to dwell on it. It was no use crying over spilled milk.


The term was first coined by James Howell. The proverb “no weeping for shed milk,” which first appeared in James Howell’s 1659 collection of proverbs entitled Paramoigraphy. Its modern equivalent is “Don’t cry over spilled milk.”

We shall never know how many milk glasses were spilled before James Howell was moved to write his wise counsel after all those nasty little episodes. But we can assume that it was often enough for him to realize that stressing and agonizing over insignificant occurrences like dropping a glass of milk and the little issues that inevitably arise just in the course of each day never accomplishes anything.

In a satirical essay on etiquette and small conversation titled “Polite Conversation,” written by Irish novelist, humorist, and clergyman Jonathan Swift in the year 1738, Howell’s idiom was rephrased as “‘Tis a folly to cry for spilled milk,” since language changes over time. “Don’t cry over spilt milk,” as we say today. Howell’s wise counsel has not only endured through the ages despite changes to vocabulary and syntax, but it may even be more applicable now than it was when it was first written more than 300 years ago.

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