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.
Essentially, it’s used when someone you were just talking about has just walked into a room or entered your presence somehow.
‘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.
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.
How would you use ‘speak of the devil’ in a sentence?
Let’s look at some examples:
What other words and phrases convey the same meaning as ‘speak of the devil’?
Let’s see some examples:
To recap, we learned that:
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.