Is There a 'Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow'?

13 March 2021

And now, welcome to Words and Their Stories.

On March 17 in many places around the world, people celebrate Saint Patrick's Day.

Encyclopedia Britannica says St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. "Born in Roman Britain in the late 4th century, he was kidnapped at the age of 16 and taken to Ireland as a slave. He escaped but returned to convert the Irish to Christianity."

Irish people and Irish-loving people everywhere celebrate St. Patrick's Day with religious services, parades, big meals and even bigger parties.

A man dressed as St. Patrick walks past a closed pub in Dublin, Ireland, March 16, 2020. (AP File Photo)
A man dressed as St. Patrick walks past a closed pub in Dublin, Ireland, March 16, 2020. (AP File Photo)

Decorations usually include green four-leaf clovers. The small plants are said to bring good luck. Another decoration is the Leprechaun. A Leprechaun is a trouble making creature in old Irish stories. He looks like a very small man. And he knows where to find gold.

Some experts say that, in Irish folklore, it is believed that Leprechauns can reveal the hiding places of treasures.

The Encyclopedia Britannica explains that as far back as the 17th century the Irish would say a person "was as likely to find a pot of gold as to find the end of a rainbow." A colorful rainbow appears in the sky when the sun shines through water droplets.

Keep in mind that there is no real "end" to a rainbow. And that brings us to our idiom: the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

The "pot of gold at the end of the rainbow" is something you really want to have or you really want to achieve. Finding your pot of gold at the end of a rainbow – or just "pot of gold" for short – feels like the realization of your hopes and dreams.

For example, let's say someone loves animals and hopes to live out in the country. They could describe their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow as a owning a working farm with cows, horses, dogs and goats!

Finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow can also be used to talk about actual money. When we use it this way, we usually mean that wealth has come suddenly. It means you have come into a huge windfall – which means a lot of money! For example, I found my pot of gold after winning the lottery! But sadly, that is just an example.

However, finding your pot of gold may not be likely or even possible. Because of the unrealistic nature of the pot of gold, this expression is often used in the negative form.

For example, a friend of mine was always unhappy. She moved a lot looking for happiness. Her father told her that she was looking for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. "It doesn't exist," he warned. "You must find a way to be happy wherever you are." But she ended up moving anyway. Some lessons we have to learn on our own.

And that's all the time we have for this Words and Their Stories. Until next time...I'm Anna Matteo.

Anna Matteo wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.


Words in This Story

patron saint – n. a saint who is believed to protect a particular place or type of person

decoration – n. something that is added to something else to make it more attractive

parade – n. a public celebration of a special day or event that usually includes many people and groups moving down a street by marching or riding in cars or on special vehicles (called floats)

folklore – n. traditional customs, beliefs, stories, and sayings

treasure – n. something valuable (such as money, jewels, gold, or silver) that is hidden or kept in a safe place

idiom – n. an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but that has a separate meaning of its own

achieve – v. to get or reach (something) by working hard

lottery – n. a drawing of lots in which prizes are distributed to the winners among persons buying a chance

negative – adj. harmful or bad : not wanted