Worth its weight in gold: phrases with ‘gold’

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by Liz Walter

Of all the elements in the periodic table, gold is the one that humans seem to love the most for its colour, its rarity and its physical properties (it is ideal for making coins). It’s not surprising, therefore that gold is a common metaphor for people or things of high quality. Today we will look at some phrases associated with this idea.

If we say that someone or something is worth their weight in gold, we mean that they are extremely useful. Interestingly, this expression can be used to describe things that do not have a physical weight:

A good assistant is worth their weight in gold.

The results of this research were worth their weight in gold.

If we describe something as the gold standard, we mean it is the best thing of its kind, while the golden age of something is the period of time when it was most successful:

These trials are the gold standard for testing new vaccines.

The 1930s were the golden age of detective fiction.

Similarly, a golden girl/boy is someone who is very popular and successful, while someone with a heart of gold is extremely kind:

He is currently the golden boy of Spanish football.

My neighbour has a heart of gold.

There are several expressions that focus on the idea of gold as treasure. For instance, if you strike gold, you suddenly become very rich or successful. If someone thinks that the streets are paved with gold, they think (usually wrongly) that it is easy to become rich in a place. Similarly, we use the phrase a pot/crock of gold at the end of the rainbow to describe something that is very desirable, but impossible to get:

The band struck gold with their third album.

I came to America because I heard the streets were paved with gold.

He invested his life savings in the business, believing there would be a crock of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Gold digger is a very negative phrase for someone who forms relationships with rich people in order to get money from them, and a golden goose (or the goose that lays the golden eggs) is something that makes you rich and continues to make you rich for a long time:

His second wife was nothing but a gold digger.

The partnership between the two singers proved to be the goose that laid the golden egg.

The expression like gold dust (UK)/gold (US) focuses on the idea of gold being desirable but rare:

Good decorators are like gold dust at the moment.

I hope you will take this golden opportunity to learn some useful phrases, and remember that a golden rule for language learning is to read, speak and listen as much as possible!

14 thoughts on “Worth its weight in gold: phrases with ‘gold’

  1. Yuti

    Speech is silvern but silence is golden – my teachers loved using this idiom in class. All quiet students were considered as good as gold. And if you turned in the best homework, you got a gold star.

    Of course, we all know – all that glitters is not gold.

    1. Liz Walter

      Very interesting. I’d never heard that first phrase (think it’s ‘silver’ rather than ‘silvern’ by the way ;-)) A great one for teachers!

      1. Yuti

        Silvern is an archaic form…I never quite understood why my teachers used this form. But then, I am referring to the teachers of the 60s and 70s!

  2. This is also an interesting phrase: All is not gold that glitters.
    For me it is a phrase which a negative connotation. I would use it after a situation where you had to find out that not everything is as it was described in the beginning.


    The post is definitely a gold mine. Each time I read your posts, I have a feeling of sitting on a gold mine.
    Thank you, Liz.


    India’s Neeraj Chopra went for the gold in Men’s Javelin Throw event at Tokyo Olympics and became the first ever Indian athlete to bag a gold medal in Athletics.

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