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The meaning and origin of the expression: It came like a bolt from the blue

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It came like a bolt from the blue

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A complete and sudden surprise.


The allusion here is to the surprise like a lightening bolt from a clear sky. Thomas Carlyle was the first author known to have used the term in print, in his The French Revolution, 1837:

"Arrestment, sudden really as a bolt out of the Blue, has hit strange victims."

The word blue (or blew) had been used before that to mean the sky. Henry More records that in his A Platonicall Song of the Soul, 1642:

"Ne any footsteps in the empty Blew."