Idiom origin: ‘speak of the devil’

Font Size:

The commonly used phrase ‘speak of the devil’ is actually a shortened version of a longer phrase: ‘speak of the devil and he doth appear’. It refers to the experience of talking about a person who then, coincidentally, shows up. However, this wasn’t always its intended meaning.

As is the case for many idioms, this phrase has been around for hundreds of years. Its origin can be traced back to 16th century Latin and Old English texts. The earliest recorded reference is in Giovanni Torriano’s ‘Piazza Universale’ from 1666: “The English say, Talk of the Devil, and he’s presently at your elbow.” That was at a time when mentioning the devil’s name was thought to rouse the devil’s attention and bring about terrible luck.

It wasn’t until around the 20th century that this saying took on the more lighthearted meaning that we understand today.

Join YourLifeChoices today
and get this free eBook!

By joining YourLifeChoices you consent that you have read and agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy


How did ‘getting off scot-free’ originate?

You may be surprised to learn the Scots have nothing to do with this phrase.

Where did the little word ‘OK’ come from?

You say it every day but do you know how OK originated?

A not so clear-cut explanation of ‘spick and span’

Looking for a clear-cut explanation for spic and span? This isn't it.

Written by Lucy


Total Comments: 0



    continue reading


    Max Williams experiences the magic of Lake Mungo

    I gaze in wonder at the small bone fragments I am holding. Most likely they are part of a Murray...

    Travel News

    WA opens borders – but not to everyone

    After hard lockdowns, travellers from New South Wales and Victoria have been granted quarantine free access to Western Australia. As...


    Home quarantine off the table – for now, says Dan Andrews

    Victoria will accept overseas travellers from 7 December. And while there was hope that returning travellers to Melbourne could do...


    Adelaide family returns home to find koala perched on Christmas tree i

    An Adelaide Hills family has returned to their home after a short outing to find a koala perched on the...


    Best Christmas markets 2020

    It's no surprise that Christmas markets will be operating differently this year, and sadly many of the country's favourites won't...


    Bushwalking for beginners

    Bushwalking is one of life's simple pleasures, an environmentally-friendly means of enjoying natural and cultural wonders which exercises you, yet...

    Travel Q&A

    Travel SOS: All you need to know about flexible travel

    Susan is starting to feel comfortable about booking travel, but wants the new rules explained. --- Q. SusanI thought it...

    Self-drive holidays

    Planning a road trip in a pandemic?

    Thea van de Mortel, Griffith University As restrictions ease around the country and the prospect of travel beckons, many of...