Fun Stuff/ Research

Knock on Wood (Weird Phrases & Their Origins)

How many times have I said the day was going well and then felt the urge to knock on wood?

Everyone knows what this means…. but where did it come from?

I mean, what goofball stood around while his wife was in labor, nervous, hoping everything would go right, and decided to slam knuckles against a wooden banister, as if this would help?





Meaning: Knocking on wood (or touching wood, in Britain) is a superstition where people knock on a piece of wood to ward off bad luck or to hopefully gain good fortune.


Origin: This phrase has been around since the 19th century, yet no one can decide on an exact origin. The idea with the largest following centers on the pagan belief that spirits lived inside trees. Following this logic, knocking on the tree trunks could have done one of four things.

1 – chase evil spirits away,

2 – wake up good spirits in the hope they’d lend some luck,

3 – thank the spirits for good luck already given, or

4 – prevent the spirits from listening in and reversing what goodness had already taken place.


Some Christians linked touching or knocking on wood to the crucifixion of Christ on the cross.


Yet another theory was put forth by a British author, Steve Roud in his book, The Lore of the Playground. Roud argues that the phrase came from a children’s game of tag where kids were safe from being tagged if they touched a piece of wood.


I rather like the idea of creepy creatures running around inside the trees.

What about you?  When was the last time you said, “knock on wood”?

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