Is there a phrase that is the opposite to “A rising tide lifts all boats”?

I am looking to use it in the context of financial markets. “A rising tide lifts all boats” means stocks move in an upward direction in a bull market. How so I describe when they all indiscriminately go down at same time?

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    In which dimension would you like the opposition: A rising tide lifts some boats? Mar 18, 2020 at 22:09
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    I've run across a few sarcastic twists on the saying. And every time I see it I'm reminded of an incident near Louisville, KY ca 1970 when a dam on the Ohio first failed open, then was shut again, causing the water level to drop and then rise. A number of boats at docks first descended into the mud and then remained stuck there when the water rose again -- a rising tide swamps some boats.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 18, 2020 at 22:37

5 Answers 5


Wolfgang Mieder, A Dictionary of American Proverbs (1992) suggests three (seemingly related) sayings that use rain as a metaphor. The most familiar of these (noted by Greybeard in a comment beneath the posted question) is

Rain falls alike on the just and the unjust.

The sense here is that when large-scale trouble occurs, there is no discrimination between victims on the basis of their personal virtue or vice.

A similar sentiment is expressed in this alternative saying:

All who travel in the rain get wet.

...except that here the question of personal merit doesn't come up at all.

A slightly different take on the underlying idea appears in this saying:

The rain that rains on everybody else can't keep you dry.

That is, the particular misfortunes that others suffer in a general calamity don't immunize you from injury or even (in any practical sense) reduce your own exposure to harm.

  • I really like the last one, although I think the first one is more applicable to this question.
    – mRotten
    Oct 20, 2020 at 21:31
  • The first one won't work. It's from 1st Century Israel (New Testament) where "rain" in a desert land is a blessing not a bad thing. So it's saying "Good things happen to everybody" not "bad things happen to everybody". May 17, 2022 at 21:51

On a similarly nautical theme "They're all in the same boat" could be worked into a sentence to get something close. This phrase implies that they have a shared fate; usually with negative connotations.


misery loves company

Misery Loves Company Aplenty Among Apparel Retailers

Apparel merchants as a group are seeing their stocks perform terribly so far in 2019, with only a handful in positive territory.

I've been fascinated by the plight of retail for quite some time, but the numbers may be more astounding than you might think. I'll be taking apart various retail segments from time to time in future columns, but wanted to start with apparel, which may be in a depression, let alone a bear market. Jonathan Heller; realmoneythestreet.com

Fallout from the coronavirus pandemic flattened hopes for a grain market rebound in the first half of March. Misery loves company, and farmers weren’t the only ones steamrolled. Markets finally bounced on Friday, but not before Wall Street officially entered bear market territory and new crop futures for corn and soybeans slumped to new contract lows. "How long will market chaos reign?"; farmprogress.com


Martin Luther King said, “Either we go up together or we go down together." There are also many song lyrics that say the same sort of thing. Billy Joel in Goodnight Saigon, says "we all go down together," but it's said in the sense of brotherhood and sacrifice. More specific to your question, if you say, "A rising tide lifts all boats," you could oppositely say "A falling tide sinks all ships."

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    But falling tides don't sink all ships, if they did the shipping industry would cease. Feb 12, 2022 at 18:58

The opposite of the above statement is that a falling tide sinks all ships. As per DJClayworth in the comments.

Beyond this, I fail to see the fascination with trying to connect one idiom to another. Aren't idioms supposed to be illogical, non-literal and unconnected bits of speech? Unique bits (with their own unique opposites).

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    The ships do not sink. If a ship sinks, it is because there is a hole below the water line.
    – Greybeard
    Oct 20, 2020 at 18:28
  • Sink, and float seem the more natural word choices here. A rising stock market in general doesn't mean that all stocks are benefited immediately. Eventually, the stocks in general are benefited to the point all ships float. Conversely, a falling stock market doesn't mean that all stocks are unfavorably impacted immediately. Eventually, stocks in general fall to the point all ships sink. In other words, just because the water level goes up doesn't mean that all ships float. Conversely, just because the water level goes down doesn't mean that all ships sink. Oct 20, 2020 at 21:47
  • Sink could mean to go lower for any of a number of reasons. How about too heavy a load, ice build-up, equipment malfunction, etc? How about sink into the water to the point of buoyancy? Oct 20, 2020 at 21:54
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    Sink doesn't work because of its relation to float. If the water rises, the boat rises. If the boat sinks, the level of the water does not alter (significantly).
    – Greybeard
    Oct 20, 2020 at 22:25
  • "To descend the canal lock, the reverse happens. The lock is filled (if it is not already), the boat enters the lock which then drains, allowing the boat to exit on the lower level." The boat sinks to a lower level. As other things may, in specific, sink to the bottom of a body of water, there is no reason that also a ship may not, in general, sink lower. merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sink , 2 a (1) : to fall or drop to a lower place or level (2) : to flow at a lower depth or level (3) : to burn with lower intensity (4) : to fall to a lower pitch or volume Oct 21, 2020 at 1:58

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