Toi toi toi

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"Toi toi toi" (English: /ˈtɔɪ ˈtɔɪ ˈtɔɪ/)[1] is an expression used in the performing arts to wish an artist success in an imminent performance. It is similar to "break a leg" and reflects a superstition that wishing someone "good luck" is in fact bad luck.[2][3][4]


Toi toi toi was an idiom used to ward off a spell or hex, often accompanied by knocking on wood or spitting. The origin is a threefold warning of the devil (Teufel, pr. toi-fell) in German dialect:

No’ kommt mer in’s Teu-Teu-Teufelskuchen bey ihm. Now we come into the De-De-Devil's Kitchen!

Also from Rotwelsch tof and from Yiddish tov ("good", derived from the Hebrew טוב and with phonetic similarities to the Old German tiuvel "Devil").[5]

Spitting idea[edit]

A separate explanation sees "toi toi toi" as the onomatopoeic rendition of spitting three times, a common practice in many parts of the world to ward off evil spirits. Saliva traditionally had demon-banishing powers.

Similar expressions[edit]

An alternate operatic good luck charm, originating from Italy, is the phrase In bocca al lupo! ("In the mouth of the wolf") with the response Crepi! or Crepi il lupo! ("May it [the wolf] die!"). Amongst actors "Break a leg" is the usual phrase, while for professional dancers the traditional saying is merde (from the French "shit"). In Spanish, the phrase is mucha mierda, or "lots of shit".[6][7][8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "If you hear "Toi, toi, toi" at tonight's Houston Grand Opera performance, don't be surprised". Retrieved September 25, 2015.
  2. ^ Libby, Steve (July 1985). "It's a superstitious world: Of black cats, lucky numbers, broken mirrors..." The Rotarian. 147 (1): 30–31. ISSN 0035-838X.
  3. ^ Peterson, Lenka; O'Connor, Dan (2006). Kids Take the Stage: Helping Young People Discover the Creative Outlet of Theater (2 ed.). Random House Digital. p. 203. ISBN 0-8230-7746-2.
  4. ^ Helterbran, Valeri R. (2008). Exploring Idioms: A Critical-Thinking Resource for Grades 4–8. Maupin House Publishing. p. 24. ISBN 1-934338-14-1.
  5. ^ "Spit Your Way To Safety: Toi, toi, toi!". Forward Association, Inc. 11 February 2009. Retrieved 2010-03-29.
  6. ^ Urdang, Laurence; Hunsinger, Walter W.; LaRoche, Nancy (1985). Picturesque Expressions: A thematic dictionary (2 ed.). Gale Research. p. 321. ISBN 0-8103-1606-4.
  7. ^ McConnell, Joan; McConnell, Teena (1977). Ballet as body language. Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-012964-6.
  8. ^ The QI Elves. "No Such Thing As The Ugly Panda". No Such Thing as a Fish (62). Quite Interesting Ltd. Retrieved 7 June 2015.[permanent dead link]