writing on the wall
From the Biblical story in Daniel 5, where, during a feast held by King Belshazzar, a hand suddenly appears and writes on a wall the following Aramaic words: מְנֵא מְנֵא תְּקֵל וּפַרְסִין (mənē mənē təqēl ūp̄arsīn, “numbered, numbered, weighed, and they are divided”) (Daniel 5:25). Daniel interprets the words as pointing to the downfall of the Babylonian Empire.
- (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ˈɹaɪtɪŋ ɒn ðə ˈwɔːl/
- (General American) IPA(key): /ˈɹaɪtɪŋ ɑn ðə ˈwɔl/, [ˈɹaɪ̯ɾɪŋ]
Audio (AU) (file)
- Hyphenation: writ‧ing on the wall
- (idiomatic) An ominous warning; a prediction of bad luck.
- He could see the writing on the wall months before the business failed.
- 2011, M. P. Prabhakaran, “Goa was Not a Settler Colony as Falkland is”, in Letters on India The New York Times Did Not Publish, Pittsburgh, Pa.: RoseDog Books, →ISBN, page 43:
- The Portuguese refused to read the writings on the wall and clung to their colonies, including the one in India.
- 2012, Jan Nederveen Pieterse, “Global Rebalancing: Crisis and the East-South Turn”, in Jan Nederveen Pieterse and Jongtae Kim, editors, Globalization and Development in East Asia (Routledge Studies in Emerging Societies; 2), New York, N.Y.; Abingdon, Oxon.: Routledge, →ISBN, page 36:
- Without a doubt these trends represent the "next big thing". Consider a sampling of recent headlines as writings on the wall: […]
- 2014 September 15, Rhonda Cook, “Regulator may push for state-mandated Taser training”, in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, archived from the original on 25 October 2016:
- It gets to the point to where you see so much writing on the wall where we may not have a choice but to step in and say 'yes, you will train every year and you'll report that training to POST' in order for things to be done right.
- 2022 February 23, Benedict le Vay, “Part of rail's past... present... and future”, in RAIL, number 951, pages 53-54:
- As a railwayman put it to me: "When I saw chums of mine took their families down there by car, I could see the writing on the wall. We all had free passes, yet they got the car out!"
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.