Toi toi toi

"Toi toi toi" (English pronunciation: /ˈtɔɪ ˈtɔɪ ˈtɔɪ/)[1] is an idiom used in opera, and to a lesser extent in theatre, to wish a performer good luck prior to a performance. It is equivalent to the actor's idiom "Break a leg". The expression reflects a theatrical superstition in which wishing a person "good luck" is considered bad luck.[2][3][4] The expression is sometimes used outside the opera as superstitions and customs travel through other professions and then into common use.


"Toi Toi Toi" was originally an idiom used to ward off a spell or hex, often accompanied by knocking on wood, and onomatopoeic spitting (or imitating the sound of spitting). Saliva traditionally had demon-banishing powers. From Rotwelsch tof, from Yiddish tov ("good", derived from the Hebrew טוב and with phonetic similarities to the Old German tiuvel "Devil.")[5] One explanation sees "toi toi toi" as the onomatopoeic rendition of spitting three times. Spitting three times over someone's head or shoulder is a gesture to ward off evil spirits. A similar-sounding expression for verbal spitting occurs in modern Hebrew as "Tfu, tfu" (here, only twice), which some say that Hebrew-speakers borrowed from Russian.[6]

Alternative idioms

Main article: Break a leg

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!" ("May he [the wolf] die"). Amongst actors "Break a leg" is the usual phrase, while for professional dancers the traditional saying is "merde". In Spanish, the phrase is "mucha mierda", or "lots of shit".[7][8][9]

See also


  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. "Word of the Day / Jook ג׳וק A grisly load from Russian.". Haaretz online, 18 August 2013.
  7. Urdang, Laurence; Hunsinger, Walter W.; LaRoche, Nancy (1985). Picturesque Expressions: A thematic dictionary (2 ed.). Gale Research. p. 321. ISBN 0-8103-1606-4.
  8. McConnell, Joan; McConnell, Teena (1977). Ballet as body language. Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-012964-6.
  9. The QI Elves. "No Such Thing As The Ugly Panda". No Such Thing as a Fish (62). Quite Interesting Ltd. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/13/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.