Why do people say ‘Touchwood’?


The word ‘Touchwood’ is used to ward off bad luck and bring good fortune. There is a belief that if one touches wood after saying something which they don’t want to happen, it would avoid bad fortune. The phrase is like a superstitious belief that if one touches a wooden surface for saying something untimely or boasts of something, it will not follow bad consequences. It is also used as a charm to bring good luck.

Origin of the word ‘Touchwood’

It was in Pagan belief that people believed in evil spirits inhabiting the woods, and knocking on the woods would prevent the evil spirit from hearing about said things and not prevent hope from coming true.

The touch was meant to stop evil energies from coming in the way of hope. Earlier people touched tree trunks but now they touch everything. The other theory was every natural object has God inhabiting them.


However, Christian believe that the practice of touching wood is linked to the wood of the cross where Christ was crucified.

There is also an opposite belief which states that the phrase was used to seek blessings of the holy spirits who resided in the woods.

Also, there are numerous subjective theories behind the belief and the phrase ‘Touchwood’.

‘Touchwood’ in today’s generation has become a popular phrase and people often use the phrase to avoid misfortune.

Different names for ‘Touchwood’ and culture

There exists a phrase similar to ‘Touchwood’ in every part of the world. For example in Brazil, it is ‘Bater Na Madeira’, while in Indonesia ‘Amit-Amit’ is the word for ‘Touchwood’. But, in India people use the word ‘Nazar Na lage’ which is similar to ‘Touchwood’.

In modern-day England, people use the phrase ‘Touchwood’ more than ‘knock on the wood’ which finds mention in the English folklores when people talked about their secrets and wanted to hide their secrets from evils. Whereas, in Latin America, there is a tradition to knock on wooden objects which do not have feet like tables, chairs, or beds.

Again, in Romania, there is a superstition that knocking on wood would avoid bad things from happening.

While in North Macedonia, folk believes that when somebody says something negative ” knocking on the wood’ will not let the misfortune happen.

People in Iran say ‘bezan-am be taxteh, cheshm naxoreh’ after knocking on wood. There is a superstitious belief in evil eyes and things or people being jinxed in Iranian culture. So saying the word they ward off evil spirits.

In Italy, people say tocca ferro (“touch iron”) when they see something related to death.

It is really interesting to see that which part of the world one resides in or religion one follows, there’s a phrase similar to ‘Touchwood’.

Is it a superstitious belief or real?

Because there is no scientific knowledge or evidence that saying the phrase would help to avoid bad luck. The theories related to it are related to the old notion about magic and the supernatural.

There is a lore that if one breaks the continuation while saying something good then it will not be jinxed. This is common to ‘Touchwood’ too.

Some people believe that the phrase will avert bad things from happening. It is customary to touch wooden things when the phrase is uttered. It is likely to come from the belief that wood and trees are associated with good spirits. This belief dates back to Roman times. Another theory is if there is any negative energy surrounding any thought it would be absorbed by the woods.

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