writing on the wall

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English[edit]

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Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From the Biblical story in the Book of Daniel; mysterious writing on the wall during King Belshazzar's feast points to the downfall of the Babylonian Empire.

Noun[edit]

writing on the wall (countable and uncountable, plural writings on the wall)

  1. An ominous warning; a prediction of bad luck.
    He could see the writing on the wall months before the business failed.

Usage notes[edit]

  • As an uncountable noun, the phrase alludes to a vague set of ominous indications. As a countable noun, the singular refers to a specific warning.

See also[edit]