Break a Leg for Good Luck

By Leodini


As a magician, you must have heard of the phrase “break a leg.”

It is a theater jargon that has spread in other live performing arts.

People tell it to you before the show when they want to wish you good luck.

Wait a minute. Confused why “break a leg” means “good luck”?

Well, that is the idea of the phrase—to confuse.

Theories abound about the origin of this phrase. One is that back in the 1920s, in American theater, some stage actors coined it out of superstition.

In those days, they thought fairies and evil spirits haunted the theaters. They suspected these resident spirits were pranking the performers. That they used their malevolent powers to wreak havoc on stage plays.


This belief came about after they noticed something unusual. Every time they wished fellow performers good luck, bad luck happened. Props failed, scenery dropped, actors lost their place in the script, and so on.

It didn’t take long for stage performers to assume saying “good luck” moved the evil spirits to bring bad luck. So, to confuse the evil spirits and spur them to bring good luck, they changed tactics. They wished the performers bad luck before the show.

Yes, the strategy was to wish someone bad luck to bring good luck. Confusing, but that’s the idea—to confuse the bad spirits.

The phrase for bad luck they come up with was “break a leg”. As you well know, breaking a leg is the nastiest accident a performer can meet during a performance. It is the worst form of bad luck.

The Result?

According to superstition, a wish for bad luck confuses evil spirits. When they hear someone wishing a performer to “break a leg”, they bring him the opposite. They give him good luck instead. The show then runs smoothly, free of accidents, mistakes, and bloopers.

What has all this to do with your magic?

Well, the pandemic has been upon us since last year. The virus has wiped out the local magic entertainment industry.

Unless you didn’t notice it, we have been in a long spell of bad luck.

I’m not superstitious, but I have this sneaky idea we need people to tell us to “break a leg” for a change.

Stay magical,