Any port in a storm


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Any port in a storm'?

The proverb ‘Any port in a storm’ suggests that, when in difficulty you need not to seek the perfect solution; any solution will suffice.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Any port in a storm'?

The first known use of this proverb is in the English author John Cleland’s bawdy novel Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, 1749:

“Pooh!”, says he “my dear, any port in a storm.”

Cleland’s book is better known as Fanny Hill. The content of the book is, in the words of Mary Whitehouse, the founding president of the UK National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association and campaigner against the permissive society, “utter filth”.

Cleland goes to elaborate lengths to describe the events in the story, which are by any standards exceedingly lewd, in euphemistic language. That is the case in the extract where ‘any port in a storm’ is found. What the heroine was doing with her gentleman companion uttered the line above I’ll leave you to look for for yourself.

Whether Cleland coined the term ‘any port in a storm’ isn’t clear. He made no attempt to define it so it may be that he knew that his audience would have been familiar with it. It might also be that he made the line up and didn’t feel the need to explain it further. Either way, no example of the line, which has now become a well-known proverb, has been found earlier than 1749.

See also: the List of Proverbs.

Trend of any port in a storm in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.