8 Lucky Sayings About Good (and Bad) Fortune

Thursday, March 92 min read

“Wish me luck!” “I’ll try my luck.” “As luck may have it…” “It’s just the luck of the draw.” Fates and fortunes are the stars of many casual conversations, but the word “luck” has a long history. The word “luck” comes from the Middle Dutch word luc, where it was most likely a gambling term that meant “good fortune.” Today, there are many idioms and sayings used to talk about lucky circumstances and sad misfortunes.

Born Under a Lucky Star

It’s good fortune indeed to be born under a lucky star — it means you’ve been blessed. The idea of the stars influencing destiny has existed for millennia, but one reference to a lucky star can be found in Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well, when Helena tells Parolles, “You were born under a charitable star.”

Down on Your Luck

Experiencing some misfortune? Being “down on your luck” is similar to being “out of luck” or having “tough luck.” It’s like having the fates turn against you. “Down on your luck” is a gambling term from the early 1800s, but it’s still used in casinos and elsewhere today.

Luck of the Irish

If you have the “luck of the Irish,” congratulations — that means you have extremely good fortune. However, the phrase didn’t always have such positive associations. Successful Irish miners in the late 19th century were said to have the “luck of the Irish,” but according to an Irish history professor, the phrase “carried with it a certain tone of derision as if to say, only by sheer luck, as opposed to brains, could these fools succeed.”

Murphy’s Law

Possibly named for aerospace engineer Edward A. Murphy, this law states, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Over the years, folks have come to associate this phrase with plain bad luck. However, Murphy’s law never mentions luck — good or bad — at all.  

Press Your Luck

When someone is on a lucky streak, and they keep going even though they risk failing or losing their winnings, someone might warn them against “pressing (or pushing) their luck.” This phrase has been around since the early 1900s, typically in the negative form: “Don’t press your luck.” The popular 1970s TV game show Press Your Luck took a literal approach to the phrase, asking players to press a button to earn more and more money. If they kept going, they risked landing on the dreaded “Whammy” and losing their good fortune.

Rather Be Lucky Than Good

Skill is important, but sometimes luck is just as essential. That’s the sentiment behind this famous saying. The phrase is often attributed to New York Yankees pitcher Lefty Gomez, who reportedly said, “I’d rather be lucky than good,” as early as 1943.

Strike Gold

During the California gold rush of the mid-1800s, a miner was deemed successful if they found the precious metal. Today, a person who “strikes gold” is anyone who finds a source of wealth, success, or happiness. As with the forty-niners, the saying implies a fair bit of luck was involved.  

Third Time’s a Charm

If at first (or second) you don’t succeed, try again. This saying implies a person might achieve their goal on the third attempt. It may just be a motivational sentiment, but in many cultures and traditions, the number three has spiritual significance. A version of this phrase appeared in the 1939 letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning when she wrote about “the luck of the third adventure.” It’s also a nice way of making us feel better after a few missteps.

Featured image credit: 4kodiak/ iStock

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