What Does By All Appearances Mean?

By All Appearances Meaning

Definition: As can be determined from sight.

Without knowing the truth about a situation, you can make certain assumptions about it based on what you observe.

You don’t know if what you see tells the full picture, so when you share this information, you say,

  • By all appearances…

This emphasizes that this is just how it seems from its looks, though the reality may be different.

In some instances, the reality matches the appearance; sometimes, however, it does not.

Origin of By All Appearances

Define by all appearances Originally, the phrase was to all appearances, and it most likely came from according to all appearances, though it is unclear when and where it first appeared.

There is an example of this variation in The Indian Advocate from December 1905,

  • To all appearances the former was a saintly and most exemplary pastor: there was not one of the parishioners who would in the least have suspected him to have been Hester’s criminal accomplice.

Over time, the preposition has changed from to to by.

Examples of By All Appearances

Meaning of by all appearances In the modern day, people use this expression when something seems different than it actually is.

For example, someone might say,

  • By all appearances, the company was doing well, but, in fact, it was in debt.


  • By all appearances, they were the perfect match for each other; later they would find out they were wildly incompatible.

It can also be used with locations. If, for example, you are looking for a destination that you cannot seem to locate, you might say,

  • By all appearances, we are heading to the lake.

In this case, the appearance and the reality are both true.

More Examples

  • “By all appearances on social media and other venues, they certainly seem to be doing the mayor’s bidding to push his political agenda, creating an ugliness in Portland politics unlike anything I have ever seen before.” –Portland Press Herald
  • By all appearances, the employees don’t mind the disruptions. They know that progress is being made on the 18,000-square-foot addition. –The Dickinson Press


The phrase by all appearances refers to knowledge gleaned from observation that may or may not show the full story.