This English expression is used commonly as a metaphor in both written and spoken language although it is particularly prominent in literary works.
The expression is used to mean that something is good although this positive attribute is not immediately noticed. It is often used when looking back at an event which at the time seemed like it was a problem or set-back but which upon reflection was actually beneficial. An example could be losing your job which at the time seems negative. However, after time you get a better and more enjoyable job and thus looking back losing your job was in fact “a blessing in disguise” as it resulted in something positive.
It is believed that the idiom “a blessing in disguise” dates to the mid-1700s, however the first usage of the expression is yet to be verified. The earliest written instance of the expression can be found in the 1746 poem Reflections on a Flower-Garden by English poet James Hervey. It is suggested however that the phrase had been used prior to this in both written pieces which have not been discovered and in spoken language.
An example of the usage of this expression can be found in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest which reads “And now, dear Mr. Worthing, I will not intrude any longer into a house of sorrow. I would merely beg you not to be too much bowed down by grief. What seem to us bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.”