What does the idiom "Speak of the devil" mean?

The expression Speak of the devil is one of the idioms that often finds a place in our literature and enriches our language. However, its meaning is not fully understood, so it is sometimes used in the wrong situations. Please review the explanation carefully for the correct use of the Speak of the devil idiom.

Meaning of "Speak of the devil"


The idiomatic phrase “speak of the devil” is usually used when one is talking about something or someone and that thing or person suddenly appears as if they had been summoned by the talk. It is usually an expression of surprise, disbelief and sometimes even shock.


The exact origin of the phrase “speak of the devil” is unknown. It is believed to be derived from a superstition of the 16th century that when a person was spoken of by name, their presence would be summoned. This superstition was popularized by William Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet”, released in 1602, in which the phrase “Speak of the devil” is used several times. The phrase is also found in other works from the same era, such as a passage from the Bible, the book of Matthew, which says “If Satan also is divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand?”.


The phrase “speak of the devil” is mainly used in informal situations as a humorous response when someone appears suddenly after being talked about. It can also be used sarcastically to express disbelief at the timing of a person’s arrival. Additionally, it can be used to express surprise, shock and awe, particularly when one is talking about something that they did not expect to happen.

Example Sentences

  • “We were just talking about you and here you are! Speak of the devil!”
  • “I can’t believe it! I was just saying how I wished I had a new car, and speak of the devil, my dad showed up with one!”
  • “I didn’t think I was going to get the job offer, but speak of the devil, here it is!”

The meanings of the words in the "Speak of the devil" idiom

The universal role of idioms

"Kill two birds with one stone" is an English idiom that means to accomplish two things with a single action. In French, the similar idiom is "Faire d'une pierre deux coups," which translates to "To kill two birds with one stone." This idiom highlights the efficiency of completing two tasks with one action.


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