The Origins of “Break a Leg”

Paragon Orthopedic Center isn’t a comedic hotbed, but in our bone-oriented clinic, we hear our fair share of references to the idiom, “break a leg”.  The patient who broke their leg during a performance, “I literally broke my leg!”  As Dr. Bents is turning to go into surgery, he might hear, “Hey Doc, don’t break a leg!”  The patient who recovered from a broken leg being told as they leave, “Don’t break another leg!”  Nobody is truly wishing a person to have a broken leg, and saying it seems to always elicit a smile.  Typically meaning “good luck,’ the origins of this go back to the theatre.  Superstition says not to wish an actor good luck because that’s bad luck, so instead “break a leg” came about.  It might have been adapted in the early 20th century from a German aviation saying “Hals-und Beinbruch,” meaning “neck or leg break,” or a Hebrew blessing “hatzlakha u-brakha,” meaning “success and blessing,” The German translation is still used today to wish good luck, but it isn’t connected to the theatre.  It is speculated that the saying was brought to America with immigrants after the First World War.  The earliest written usage is in 1939 in an autobiography by Edna Ferber, according to Wikipedia.  So there you have it.  Share your wisdom with others!

Why Do We Say “Break a Leg?” | Reader’s Digest (