ships that pass in the night

Cultural Dictionary

ships that pass in the night definition


Often said of people who meet for a brief but intense moment and then part, never to see each other again. These people are like two ships that greet each other with flashing lights and then sail off into the night. From a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

ships that pass in the night

Individuals who are rarely in the same place at the same time. For example, Jan works the early shift and Paula the late shiftthey're two ships that pass in the night. This metaphoric expression comes from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "The Theologian's Tale" (published in Tales of a Wayside Inn, 1873).

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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