Why do we say "Keep your fingers crossed.

Well-Known Expressions

Keep your fingers crossed

Meaning:

Wish me luck

Background:

Some sources say that "keep your fingers crossed" is a reference to the Christian cross. However, these same sources date the expression to the 20th century, which seems surprisingly recent considered its supposed origin.

It seems more likely that the expression maybe modern but that its origins date far back into history. The cross was a powerful symbol in many pre-Christian cultures* and making the sign of the cross to ward of danger is an old superstition.  In some European cultures two people were required to use their index fingers to form the sign, one to make the wish, the other to support it, but overtime this was modified so one person could wish on his/her own.

*For example, the symbol of the Babylonian sun god is a cross; the Egyptian ankh is a cross with a loop on the top; and the swastika, which was a holy symbol of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism long before the Nazis adopted it as their own, is also a cross). In fact, it is quite likely that the early Christian's adoption of the cross was because it was already considered a powerful symbol. Evidence suggests that Jesus was hung from an upright post without a cross-piece. A simple stake was apparently standard practice at the times and in the earliest Greek versions of Acts (believed to have been recorded by Luke ~60-120 AD) the word stauros (stake) is used in reference to the crucifixion.

Alphabetical list of expressions

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