So you want to be an actor? Or you already are?

Break a leg – Myth or meaning?

The phrase ‘break a leg’ is a jovial encouragement, said to actors for good luck before they go on stage, especially on an opening night.

The term “break a leg is used it to wish performers good luck. It may seem odd, but in the theatre world, saying “good luck” is actually considered bad luck.

In the 1865 assassination of Abraham Lincoln. John Wilkes Booth, the actor turned assassin, leapt to the stage of Ford’s Theatre after the murder, breaking his leg in the process. The logical connection with good luck is none too clear, but such is folklore.

When you wished an actor ‘good luck’, the spirits ensured that bad luck fell on him. In order to outwit the spirits, theatre professionals began to wish actors ill luck – like breaking a leg – rather than good luck.

In Elizabethan times when, instead of applause, the audience would bang their chairs on the ground – and if they liked it enough, the leg of the chair would break.