What does the idiom "Break a leg" mean?

The phrase Break a leg is often used in English, but what does this idiom mean? When idioms are used in the right situations, they strengthen communication and enrich the language. You can communicate more effectively by learning the meaning of Break a leg.

Meaning of "Break a leg"


The phrase "Break a leg" is an English idiom which literally means to suffer a fracture or break a bone in one's leg. However, the idiom has a much different and more positive meaning. When used as an expression of encouragement and good luck, "Break a leg" is a wish to another person that they perform well and have a successful outcome. The phrase is often used to wish someone luck before they start a performance or a competition, although it can also be used after a person has completed an arduous task.


The exact origin of the phrase "Break a leg" is uncertain. It is likely derived from a literal sense of the phrase, in which performers were wishing each other luck with the hope that they would not literally break their legs on stage. This practice dates back to at least the 17th century, when Shakespearean actors used the phrase as a sign of good luck and a wish for a successful performance. Another popular theory is that the phrase comes from the custom of bowing one’s leg for applause, which could result in the performer literally breaking their leg if done too vigorously.


The phrase "Break a leg" is used in many social contexts such as theater, dance, music, and sports. It is particularly common among actors before they go onstage, and is often said in place of the more traditional phrase "good luck." It can also be used to express appreciation and congratulations, as well as congratulations for a job well done. The phrase is usually said by an individual and can be followed by hand gestures such as a thumbs up, a pat on the back, or a hug.

Example Sentences

  • Actor: “I’m so nervous for tonight’s performance!” Friend: “Break a leg!”
  • “I can’t believe you finished the project ahead of schedule. Well done, just break a leg!”
  • “My brother is competing in the national chess tournament this weekend. I told him to break a leg!”

The meanings of the words in the "Break a leg" idiom

Idioms with similar meaning

"Don't judge a book by its cover" is an English idiom that means you shouldn't make assumptions about someone or something based solely on its appearance. In Japanese, the similar idiom is "Hana yori dango," which translates to "Dumplings rather than flowers." This idiom means that substance is more important than appearance.


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