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What Does the Quote 'Ignorance is Bliss' Mean?

Renuka Savant Jan 23, 2019
Ignorance is bliss. How often have you heard this phrase and wondered about its actual meaning and its origin? Here are some information on the topic and some examples to help you understand it better.

So, what does it mean?

'Ignorance is bliss' is just another way of saying, 'what you don't know can't hurt you.'
Ignorance does bring with it a lot of bliss―surely, it is impossible to be affected by anything that we are unaware of. This particular expression is frequently used, sometimes even making negative connotations when mentioned in a sarcastic vein.
We're, therefore, looking to clear the air, and giving you the precise meaning of the term, along with examples to drive the point home. But first, let us take a brief look at its origin.

Origin of the phrase 'Ignorance is bliss'

The earliest known mention of the phrase can be found in English poet, Thomas Gray'sOde on a Distant Prospect of Eton College. The ode was composed by Gray in 1742, which sees him reminiscing about his schooldays, which were spent in joyful abandon.
The phrase 'ignorance is bliss' appears at the very end of the ode, signifying that sometimes, it is better to seek solace in our ignorance, rather than invite misery, courtesy of our awareness.
To each his sufferings: all are men,
Condemned alike to groan;
The tender for another's pain,
The unfeeling for his own.
Yet ah! why should they know their fate?
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies.
Thought would destroy their paradise.
No more; where ignorance is bliss,
'Tis folly to be wise
Although the phrase 'ignorance is bliss' worded as such was coined by Thomas Gray, the idea itself dates back at least to the times of Sophocles, who alluded to the concept circa 450 - 430 BCE in Ajax.

... of woes thou knowest naught, for ignorance is life's extremest bliss ...
William Davenant wrote about it in his play, The Just Italian (1629).

Since Knowledge is but sorrow's Spy,
It is not safe to know.

Poet Matthew Prior (1664 - 1721) wrote, If We see right, We see our Woes:
Then what avails it to have Eyes?
From Ignorance our Comfort flows:
The only wretched are the Wise.

Use it right

The expression 'ignorance is bliss' is used when the lack of knowledge about an unpleasant situation is a good thing; this way, one remains unaffected no matter how bad or complicated things may get. The phrase can be used towards a positive or negative effect.

For example:

Shelly does not read newspapers or watch the news―she says it helps her from being disheartened by all the mayhem that's going on in the world at the moment. She firmly believes that ignorance is bliss.
Karen borrowed a beautiful dress from her friend. Unfortunately, she spilled coffee on it. Karen got the dress dry-cleaned and returned it, looking as good as new. Obviously, she won't share this with her friend―after all, ignorance is bliss.
For all those children, or even adults who believe in Santa or the Tooth Fairy, ignorance is bliss.