Devil is in the Details - Meaning, Origin and Usage

Do you have to read through an insurance policy or contract? If so, it's good to remember that "the devil is in the details."

This post unpacks everything you need to know about the origin and meaning of this idiom.

Devil is in the Details Idiom Meaning

We're sure you've heard someone say "the devil is in the details" to you at some point in your life. It's a popular phrase meaning that you should pay close attention to whatever you're doing at the moment.

Whether that's reading through a contract or laying a new carpet, "the devil is in the details" means that it's the small components of a task that you need to pay the most attention to.

You could use the phrase to tell someone that the particularly uninteresting and seemingly insignificant details could spell disaster if you don't take them into account. Essentially "the devil is in the details" is a warning that bad things can lurk in the specifics of a situation, contract, or task, and the person should approach them with caution.

Devil is in the Details Example Usage

"Did you make sure to go over the Simmons contract? The devil is in the details, and we don't want to miss anything that could come back to bite us."

"He forgot to read the contract before signing, and now he owes the bank interest on that loan. You always need to read contracts; the devil is in the details."

"The detective caught the serial killer after months of careful investigation. He started recognizing patterns in the murders and caught the killer. The devil is in the details."

"Remember to plan your hike before venturing into the wilderness; the devil is in the details."

Devil is in the Details Idiom Origin

"Devil is in the details" is a later rendition of the initial phrase "God is in the details." Initially, the term meant that everything you did in your actions was authentic and trustworthy. The devil is in the details is a variation of the phrase with a somewhat negative connotation over the original.

There are several reports on the origins of "the devil is in the details." The first comes from German poet and philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844 – 1900). The legendary philosopher penned the quote, "Der Teufel stecktim Detail." This phrase translates to the English, "the devil is in the details."

Other language experts attribute the phrase's rise to a German architect, Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880). Gustave would often say, "God is in the details." While these two examples of the phrase's origins are the likely source, no one knows where it originated for sure.

Phrases Similar to Devil is in the Details

  • God is in the details.
  • Find a hidden gem.
  • Read the fine print.

Phrases Opposite to Devil is in the Details

  • There's nothing in the details.
  • Take it at face value.
  • Don't bother searching.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Devil in the details.
  • Devils in the details.
  • Devil is in the details.

Ways People May Say this Devil is in the Details Incorrectly

People may use this phrase to refer to the presence of the devil in biblical terms. However, the correct use of the "devil" refers to a hidden clause or meaning rather than a spiritual one. There is no spiritual connotation to this phrase in modern language.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Devil is in the Details

You can use "devil in the details" in social and professional settings. The phrase is another way of asking someone to pay attention to the details because they might miss something or uncover something they could find useful.

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