knock on wood

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From a folk practice of unclear origin.



knock on wood (third-person singular simple present knocks on wood, present participle knocking on wood, simple past and past participle knocked on wood)

  1. (idiomatic, US) To take a customary action to ward off some misfortune that is believed to be attracted by a presumptuous statement.
    Synonym: (UK, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand) touch wood



knock on wood

  1. (idiomatic, US) Hopefully; a self-directive to undertake the customary action to ward off bad luck.
    Synonym: (UK, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand) touch wood
    I do a lot of walking, and I have never had any knee problems yet, knock on wood.

Usage notes[edit]

  • The expression is used superstitiously to avert the possibility that something just mentioned (if bad) might not occur, or (if it is a good thing) might occur. The action may or may not be performed, depending on how literally the speaker adheres to the superstition. If it is taken literally, it is usual to attempt physically to touch some wooden object whilst, or shortly after, exclaiming knock on wood. Failure to find and touch a wooden item within a short time may be considered ominous, and cause mental distress to the person involved.