Speaking of the Devil – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Have you ever had the experience of talking to someone about another person, only to have that person show up? As they walk over to you, you might say the idiom, “speaking of the devil.” This phrase is common in today’s modern language, and you probably hear people use it all the time.

You could use this term in social and professional settings. You might use “speaking of the devil” if you’re talking to someone about a person and they call you on the phone during the discussion. You could also use it if that person you’re discussing shows up out of nowhere, creating an eerie, serendipitous interaction.

The phrase is also suitable for discussing another person in conversation without having them arrive on the scene. This post unpacks everything you need to know about using “speaking of the devil.”

Speaking of the Devil Meaning

Speaking of the devil” is an idiom referring to someone appearing physically after talking about them, or the other party in your conversation could mention them, resulting in you saying, “Speaking of the devil.”

The phrase can have a negative or positive meaning behind it, and you can use it to express disappointment or delight with the party acting as “the devil” in the conversation. Many people use this phrase with a tone of surprise in physical encounters involving “the devil” they are speaking about.

Speaking of the Devil Example Usage

Some of the ways you can use “speaking of the devil” in conversation are the following.

  • Have you seen Colin lately? Speaking of the devil, isn’t that him at that table over there?
  • Speaking of the devil, when was the last time you talked to George?
  • Speaking of the devil, that’s John calling me on the phone right now.

Speaking of the Devil Origin

Speaking of the devil” is the shorter form of the idiom “Speak of the devil and he doth appear.” The origin of “speaking of the devil” dates back to the middle ages.

During these times, the correct original phrase was “speak of the devil, and he doth appear.” At the time, religious dogma ruled the minds of the people. As a result, people were afraid to use the word “devil,” “Lucifer,” or “Satan” in language, fearing it would manifest the entity.

The phrase garnered popularity in the 1600s, with people changing the language to “Speak of the devil, and he shall (or will) appear.” Over the next few hundred years, some people would change the reference to “speaking of the devil,” shortening the idiom to its current format.

While “speaking of the devil” started as nothing more than a superstitious warning, today it’s a comment on the serendipitous coincidence of speaking about someone or something and then suddenly finding them, or it “at your elbow. ”

Phrases Similar to Speaking of the Devil

  • Speak of the devil, and he doth appear.
  • Speak of the devil, and he will appear.
  • Talk of the devil.

Phrases Opposite to Speaking of the Devil

  • Who are you?

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Speak of the devil.
  • Speaking of the devil.

Ways People May Say Speaking of the Devil Incorrectly

Some people may use speaking of the devil in the wrong context. The “Devil” in the phrase doesn’t actually refer to the biblical entity but rather to someone you know or don’t know in life.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Speaking of the Devil

The “devil” in the idiom “speaking of the devil” refers to a person. You may or may not know that person, but rather, the reference is one of surprise or sometimes resentment or anger. However, it can be a happy expression if the devil is someone you know or like.

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