In bocca al lupo

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"In bocca al lupo" (Italian pronunciation: [im ˈbokka al ˈluːpo], "into the mouth of the wolf") is an Italian idiom used in opera and theatre to wish a performer good luck prior to a performance. The standard response is "crepi il lupo!" or, more commonly, simply "crepi!" (Italian: [ˈkreːpi il ˈluːpo], "may (the wolf) die").

Equivalent to the English actor's idiom "Break a leg", the expression reflects a theatrical superstition in which wishing a person "good luck" is considered bad luck.[1][2][3] The expression is sometimes used outside Italy and the stage as superstitions and customs travel through other professions and then into common use.


Its use originated with hunters wishing each other to be in dangerous situations.[4] The superstitious use of wishing a negative or dangerous situation as a way of wishing good luck is common in other languages. Indeed, the general image of the wolf in the common language, both in Italy and in the Western culture, is that of a dangerous, hungry and violent creature (e.g. "wolf in sheep's clothing", "cry wolf").[5]

Alternative idioms

An alternate operatic good luck charm is the phrase "Toi toi toi", 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). Amongst English actors "Break a leg" is the usual phrase, while for professional dancers the traditional saying is "merde"". In Spanish, the phrase is "mucha mierda", also the same in Portuguese "muita merda" or "lots of shit".[6][7][8]

In popular culture

See also


  1. ^ 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. 
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ Helterbran, Valeri R. (2008). Exploring Idioms: A Critical-Thinking Resource for Grades 4–8. Maupin House Publishing. p. 24. ISBN 1-934338-14-1. 
  4. ^ Lapucci, Carlo. Dizionario dei modi di dire della lingua italiana (Garzanti-Vallardi, 1979)
  5. ^ "Sull'origine della formula in bocca al lupo | Accademia della Crusca". Retrieved 2016-01-08. 
  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]
  9. ^ "In Bocca al Lupo". 
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