In Great Britain a phrase you may hear people say is touch wood or knock on wood. This is an interesting British superstition that has been around for many years. Let’s check out what this superstition means!

If you hear a British person say touch wood you’ll probably see them touch, tap or knock something that is made from wood at the same time. British people do this when they are trying to send away bad luck. This phrase may be said when someone is experiencing some good luck and doesn’t want it to end! It may also be said if we tempt fate. To tempt fate means to talk about something too confidently and invite bad luck.

If there is no wood around a British person will tap their head instead! This is done as a joke. If a person had a wooden head they would not be very clever. British people love to laugh at themselves!

This superstition is said to have started many years ago. People used to believe good spirits lived in the trees, so they tapped the trees to let them know they were there. Trees are, of course, made of wood. (Source –

In America people would usually say knock on wood.

Example 1:

  • Mandy “It’s been so cold this winter. I don’t like the cold. I’ve been ill for weeks.”
  • Jack “I’ve been lucky. I’ve not been ill for a long time, touch wood!”

touch wood quote

Example 2:

  • Bill “What time is your meeting today?”
  • Lisa “It’s in one hour. I should be there in plenty of time, as long as the traffic’s not too bad. Touch wood.”

Example 3:

  • Stan “There are just 10 minutes left. Barcelona are 2 goals up. They surely can’t lose the game now!”
  • Oliver Touch wood!”


  • Do you have any superstitions for sending away bad luck?
  • Do you believe that you can tempt fate?  Does this affect what you do or say?
  • Can you think of a time when you would use this superstition and touch wood?

More British Culture:

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