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Break a Leg: Meaning and Examples

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English is full of expressions that can sound nonsensical if you don’t know what they mean. “Break a leg” is one of them. Below, we’ll go over what this idiom means and show you how to use it correctly.

Image reads: Break a Leg. This blog post goes over this famous idiom's meaning and more.
Have you ever heard of the expression, “break a leg?” 
Break a Leg: Quick Summary

Break a leg is an English idiom that is used to wish someone good luck, especially in the world of performing arts.

  • Your act is up. Break a leg!

What Does “Break a Leg” Mean?

Break a leg is a commonly used idiom that means “good luck.” Remember, an idiom is an expression that means something entirely different from the literal meaning of the words used. So, if someone tells you to break a leg, don’t worry; they’re just wishing you good luck.

Joan told me about your presentation. Break a leg!

“Break a Leg” Origin

No one knows exactly where and when the phrase break a leg originated. However, it is believed that the expression is rooted in theater. Performers believed that saying good luck would bring bad luck, so they would say break a leg instead.

“Break a Leg” Synonyms

There are a few other expressions you could use in place of break a leg:

Best of luck
Blow them away
Fingers crossed
Knock ‘em dead
Knock on wood
You got this
Image shows picture of iconic "drama masks" with text that reads "break a leg."
The expression “break a leg” is popular in the theater world.

How To Use “Break a Leg” Correctly

Yes, break a leg means the same thing as good luck. However, it can’t always take the place of good luck.

As we already mentioned, you’ll come across the phrase break a leg often in theater and other types of performance art. But you can also hear it in everyday conversations.

Mom tells me you’re trying a new recipe today. Break a leg, brother.

However, if the mood or setting is solemn, serious, or in any way negative, saying break a leg might be considered objectionable.

For instance, if someone you know is going to undergo a serious and dangerous surgery, it would not be appropriate to say break a leg. Similarly, you wouldn’t want to tell someone who is about to compete in a sporting event to break a leg.

The boss wants to have a meeting with me about my performance. I’m scared he'll fire me.

Well, break a leg in there.

Reserve the idiom break a leg for positive or neutral occasions and scenarios.

English fluency requires that you learn and understand expressions like break a leg. It can be difficult, but with practice and familiarization, you’ll come to understand and use many idioms.

Another way to improve your English fluency is to use LanguageTool as your writing assistant. Its advanced technologies can steer you away from overused phrases and colloquialisms so that your writing can be pristine.

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