Please imagine you're looking for something or somebody; you go around everywhere and are asking everyone in sorrounding area to find out whther they know where it/he/she... is! After awhile (it can be a long time, but not necessarily), you "usually" bump into what/who you where looking for just in a place you even didn't imagine you could find them which was too close to you, while you've already searched many other places far away!

As the saying goes in such a situation, the person as though finds themsleves in midstream looking for water; in other words, what they were looking for had been just beside them or too close to them while they had been in many other places looking for the lost person or thing!

In my language, in such a moment and when the person finds what they have been looking for, they might say (sarcastically or even out of surprise):

  • The water was in the pitcher and I was looking for it all around the world! [which literally seems to be clear by itself]

The only English equivalent I found for it is:

  • I was looking for water in the sea!

What I need is to discover if it works in today English or there os a current alternative for that.

I would appreciate it if you help me find the closest proverb or expression in common use about this meaning.


2 Answers 2


I answered a similar question at EL&U a while ago.

The expression I'm used to is hidden in plain sight, or it's variation hiding in plain sight.

As discussed in TV Tropes's "Hidden in Plain Sight":

"The best place to hide something is out in the open. Nobody ever thinks to look there."
— Robert Anton Wilson

Something hidden is looked for in lots of secret places, and in the end turns out to have been plainly visible all the time, usually disguised as an ordinary object.

You'll never guess which one of these people is Superman.

And from Phrases.org:

Something that defies apprehension by being too obvious.

After robbing the jewellers the thief just stood in the crowd and watched the police
search all the local alleys. I guess hiding in plain sight worked for him.

In short, you've dismissed the obvious because you've assumed that can't be correct—so you've spent lots of time looking for it in more unlikely places. (You already put a receipt in your pocket, so you can't find it when you look for it elsewhere.)

  • Good point @Jason Bassford; although it was not the point I was looking for, but it taught me another useful point here. Just as I asked previously, I need to know does Canadian Yankee's suggestion and James K's one differ in meaning? I mean what is the difference between he/it was right in front of my nose and he/it was right on my head? As I'd mentioned, if I get an answer to this quetion I think I would find the response to the original question. :)
    – A-friend
    Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 6:45
  • @A-friend I'm not sure what the answer to that has to do with answering your question, but in front of my nose (from a comment under your question) is mostly a figurative expression, while right on my head (from the other answer) is a literal expression. Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 7:12
  • I meant I have not received the answer to the origibal question while I find a justification for the nuance between these two sentences of two posters @ Jason Bassford. ;) So, as I understood, they both mean the same with different approaches and if I'm not mistaken, they both are common in English.
    – A-friend
    Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 7:30
  • 1
    @A-friend No, they don't mean the same thing. If they were right in front of your nose, they could not also be on top of your head. The expression in front of your nose is fairly common. Glasses being on top of your head is not really an expression at all, but more a literal statement. And it's a situation that, while it happens, doesn't occur as commonly. Also, in the other answer, it's not on top of my head that's being referred to as the idiom, but the whole time. Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 7:41
  • Thank you very much @Jason Bassford for your follow-up and concern.
    – A-friend
    Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 7:54

Proverbs aren't often actually used in natural speech. I've never heard the proverb about the sea that you quote.

I don't know if a proverb exists, but an idiomatic phrase is "... the whole time."

I spend half an hour looking for my glasses, but they were on my head the whole time!

Your proverb seems similar to "I couldn't see the wood for the trees" and doesn't seem to work quite right. It means, "I was concentrating on the details, so I didn't notice the overall plan"

  • Thank you @James K, but how does Canadian Yankee's suggestion and yours differ in meaning? I mean what is the difference between he/it was right in front of my nose and he/it was right on my head? I think if I get this answer I have already found the response to the question. :)
    – A-friend
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 15:35

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