English Idioms Daily Blog

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Break A Leg!

There is an old Irish Blessing that goes something like this:

May your pockets be heavy and your heart be light. May good luck be with you each morning and night.

Good luck is something that all of us can use - so let’s put ourselves in a good mood and start this week off by looking at an English idiom that has to do with the subject of luck!


Today, you can add the expression
break a leg to you your list of English idioms. It doesn’t sound like a lucky thing to say to someone but it is, in fact, an idiom that means good luck. The expression break a leg is often said to wish actors, performers and musicians good luck before they perform on stage, especially on an opening night perormance or debut. The phrase supposedly comes from the superstitious theatrical belief that wishing someone good luck could, in fact, bring bad luck....so you wish them bad luck instead! So if you have a friend who is a musician or an actor, you can wish him Break a leg! before an opening night performance...and feel completely good about it!

Michael Quinion states in his book
Port Out Starboard Home (Penguin Books Ltd., 2002) that similar idioms are known in other languages: the French say merde! (a term borrowed by dancers in the English and American theatre) and Germans say Hals- und Beinbruch, neck and leg break, as ways of wishing someone good luck. Do you know any such idioms in another language? Are you superstitious, e.g. do you believe that when a black cat crosses your path, it means bad luck, etc...?

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