I've heard a lot this idiom in movies. Why they use it or what is the history of using it.

Break a leg

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    Use a dictionary before asking a question which is answerable with a dictionary definition. You never asked for the history of "break a leg" or why it is used in English. You didn't even attempt to guess its meaning.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 20 at 6:30
  • Hi! To ask about the meaning or usage of a word or phrase, please start by looking it up, then use the "edit" button to tell about what you found and how it doesn't resolve your question. Commented Jun 20 at 20:12
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    Does this answer your question? Using the phrase break a leg Commented Jun 21 at 7:00

1 Answer 1


Wikipedia defines break a leg:

Break a leg is an English language idiom used in the theatre or other performing arts to wish a performer "good luck".

Several dictionaries give definitions similar to that.

There is not much explanation from the dictionaries, but Wikipedia has several theories including even a Superstition theory.


Its use started in the 1930s as shown. (Please note those earlier ones are not of this usage.) Hence we should feel free to use it although the wording seems counterintuitive.

Edit 2

We could use this idiom only when wishing someone well as he or she is about to perform publicly, as Wikipedia has explained. I'd not say it to footballers, who may be less likely than the former group to be familiar with this idiom.

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    Wikipedia says the English expression is first attributed in the 1930s. If you look at the Ngram results for 1800-1831, they all seem to be for the literal use of the words - 'break a leg or an arm', 'break a leg of beef' etc. Commented Jun 20 at 8:25
  • Thanks, @Kate Bunting. I've edited my answer. Commented Jun 20 at 8:41
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    This answer touches on "what does it mean," but the OP might benefit from "When should I use it": Pretty much only when wishing someone well as they are about to perform publicly. Commented Jun 20 at 20:15
  • Thanks, @Andy Bonner. I've added your point. Commented Jun 20 at 23:35

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