What is the actual meaning of the phrase tempest-tossed upon life's billow.

Does it has the same meaning with dogged by misfortune


  • 1
    What research have you done: for example, have you Googled the expressions?
    – BillJ
    Jan 12, 2021 at 9:54
  • I have googled the expression. But it could not understand what does it mean. I am not an english native speaker.
    – MEGA
    Jan 12, 2021 at 9:59
  • I read random article online, and i found the phrase. I googled the meaning, but i could not understand the meaning.
    – MEGA
    Jan 12, 2021 at 10:10
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    Hello MEGA. Thanks for your question. Please can you edit your question so as to follow the guidelines How to reference material written by others Jan 12, 2021 at 13:51

3 Answers 3


It literally means 'thrown around by storms on the waves of life' (Your phrase actually has billows in the plural.) It's a metaphor for having a hard life.


tempest = storm
billows = things that flutter and fill with air or wind, also used as a verb
life's (thing) = indicates a methaphor, the (thing) as it happens in life, depending on if (thing) is positive or negative.

So here we have a storm's fluttering things, not particularly positive or negative but certainly chaotic, uncontrolled and unpredictable, used as a methapor for things happening in life. so it broadly means "his life has been unpredictable and chaotic"

The second one "dogged" here is in the meaning of being chased persistently. Think of a dog that won't give up. Misfortune is the opposite of fortune, luck.


The metaphor is that each of us, as a human being, is a ship crossing the ocean of Life. Sometimes this metaphorical ocean will be calm and sometimes stormy. The poem that uses this phrase is saying, "When life gets tough, count the good things that you have and thank the Lord for them."

There's an old hymn about counting your blessings that starts out: "When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed"... isabelbarnsley.blogspot.com

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When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,

When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.


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    That is precisely the text that the OP had provided a link to. Jan 12, 2021 at 13:31
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    @Kate Bunting - Thanks I didn't spot that. Incidentally, I don't think it is good practice to merely give a link called "link". Links can become outdated and lead nowhere. I believe one should also provide the relevant text that came from the link in the form of a quote, and give the link a meaningful name. On a similar topic: <rant> On this and other sites, I have seen questions with the title "What does this mean?" Such a title doesn't help anyone and if allowed to proliferate would result in thousand of questions all having the same uninformative title. </rant> Jan 12, 2021 at 13:39
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    P.S. Here is the site's official guidance on quotes and links: How to reference material written by others Jan 12, 2021 at 13:54
  • I agree. I didn't spot the link at first. (I see it has now been changed.) Jan 12, 2021 at 14:26

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