‘Speak of The Devil’: Definition, Meaning and Examples

By Shanea Patterson, updated on April 4, 2023

Have you heard someone say ‘speak of the devil’ when someone walks into the room? Are you curious about what that means? Below, we’ll take a look at the definition and meaning and provide usage examples so you can see how it’s used in a sentence.

In short:

  • ‘Speak of the devil’ is a phrase used when a person you recently mentioned in conversation suddenly appears in a room or calls you.

Essentially, it’s used when someone you were just talking about has just walked into a room or entered your presence somehow.

What Does ‘Speak of the Devil’ Mean?

‘Speak of the devil’ is a common idiom in the American English language that people use when they’re talking about someone who isn’t there, and then they suddenly appear. It might also be a call or text that makes someone say ‘speak of the devil’ if they were talking to about a person and then get a text from that person.

In the movie Hercules, after Meg tries and fails to figure out Hercules’ weakness, Hades’ minions appear, and Meg says she thought she smelled a rat.

Hades appears not long after, prompting her to say, ‘Speak of the devil,’ implying that Hades is not only the devil but also a rat.

Where Does ‘Speak of the Devil’ Come From?

The phrase ‘speak of the devil’ is a shortened version of the phrase:

‘Speak of the devil, and he will appear.’

This proverb dates back to the Middle Ages in England, and it was a warning against the danger of using the name of the Devil, Satan, or Lucifer.

In the movie Harry Potter, the characters have a fear of acknowledging evil by name. Most refuse to utter the name:


The phrase ‘talk of the devil’ is often used interchangeably with this phrase.

Back then, the phrase was considered a superstitious belief that it was unlucky to mention the devil by name.

The phrase was first printed in Giovanni Torriano’s Piazza Universale’ in 1666. In it, he wrote,

‘The English say, ‘Talk of the Devil, and he’s presently at your elbow.’

It appeared again in 1672 in a poem:

‘Talk of the Devil and see his horns.’

By the 19th century, the meaning of the term began to fade, and people started using it as a warning to eavesdroppers.

And the 20th century brought with it the meaning it holds today – a reference to someone who appears suddenly after being talked about by others.

Examples of ‘Speak of the Devil’ in Sentences

How would you use ‘speak of the devil’ in a sentence?

Let’s look at some examples:

  • The minute we finished talking about my mom, she walked into the room. Speak of the devil was my first thought, but I didn’t say it out loud.
  • I walked into the living room to find my brother and sister sitting quietly. The minute I stepped into the room, my brother’s eyes grew wider. ‘Wow, speak of the devil,’ he said. They must’ve been up to something.
  • The minute I walked into my office break room, one of my co-workers gave me the side eye and said, ‘Well, well, well. Speak of the devil.’ Oh god, what had I done now? They all seemed furious.
  • Mrs. Johnson told us the story of how the principal backed into his car over the weekend. He was furious, but he told it with a dash of humor. When the principal walked in, he muttered, ‘Speak of the devil.’
  • We didn’t get a chance to go to the movie theater with our dad this weekend because our mom needed to pick us up early. In the middle of lashing out about her, Mom pulled into the driveway. ‘Speak of the devil,’ my dad fumed.
  • ‘Speak of the devil,’ I said the minute my daughter walked in smiling. I had just been telling my friend about everything she’s accomplished. I’m so proud of her.
  • Every time I walk into a room, my brother says, ‘Speak of the devil’ just to make me think he was talking about me. It’s starting to get annoying, but he still thinks it’s funny. Even after six months!
  • As soon as my sister and I finished talking about my auntie, she walked into the room. ‘Wow, speak of the devil,’ I said, standing up to hug her.

Other Ways to Say ‘Speak of the Devil’

What other words and phrases convey the same meaning as ‘speak of the devil’?

Let’s see some examples:

  • Speaking of [person’s name]
  • We were just talking about you
  • You were just the topic of conversation
  • That’s funny, we were just discussing you
  • What a coincidence, we were just talking about you
  • That’s strange – we just said your name
  • We just mentioned you
  • Coincidentally, I was just telling so and so about you

Final Advice on ‘Speak of the Devil’

To recap, we learned that:

  • ‘Speak of the devil’ is a phrase used when a person you recently mentioned in conversation suddenly appears in a room or calls or texts you.

Remember, it’s used when someone you were just talking about has just walked into a room or entered your presence somehow.

If you ever get stuck on anything, feel free to come back to review what you learned. We’ve got a ton of other content on Idioms you might find useful as you’re learning the English language. Feel free to check it out anytime.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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