In bocca al lupo (pronounced [im ˈbokka al ˈluːpo]; lit. "into the wolf's mouth") is an Italian idiom originally used in opera and theatre to wish a performer good luck prior to a performance.

The standard response is crepi il lupo! (IPA: [ˈkrɛːpi il ˈluːpo]; "may the wolf die") or, more commonly, simply crepi! ("may it die").[1]

It has been proposed, for example by animal welfare activists, to instead reply with viva il lupo! (IPA: [viva il lu:po]; "may the wolf live"), but this is not a standard or common reply.[2]

Equivalent to the English actor's idiom "break a leg", the expression reflects a theatrical superstition in which wishing a person "good luck" is considered bad luck.[3][4][5] The expression is commonly used in Italy off stage, as superstitions and customs travel through other professions and then into common use, and it can sometimes be heard outside of Italy.


Its use originated with hunters wishing each other to be in dangerous situations.[6] The superstitious use of wishing a negative or dangerous situation as a way of wishing good luck is common in other languages. Indeed, the general image of the wolf in the common language, both in Italy and in the Western culture, is that of a dangerous, hungry and violent creature (e.g. wolf in sheep's clothing, cry wolf).[1]

Alternative idioms

An alternative operatic good luck charm is the phrase toi toi toi, originally an idiom used to ward off a spell or curse, often accompanied by knocking on wood, and onomatopoeic spitting (or imitating the sound of spitting). Amongst English actors break a leg is the usual phrase, while for professional dancers the traditional saying is merde, from French for "shit". In Spanish and Portuguese, the phrase is respectively mucha mierda and muita merda, or "lots of shit".[7][8]

In popular culture

See also


  1. ^ a b Elżbieta Jamrozik (7 June 2007). "Sull'origine della formula in bocca al lupo" (in Italian). Accademia della Crusca. Retrieved 15 July 2022.
  2. ^ "Il detto – In bocca al lupo... ma non fatelo crepare". Il Mattino (in Italian). 14 December 2013. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  3. ^ Libby, Steve (July 1985). "It's a superstitious world: Of black cats, lucky numbers, broken mirrors..." The Rotarian. 147 (1): 30–31. ISSN 0035-838X.
  4. ^ Peterson, Lenka; O'Connor, Dan (2006). Kids Take the Stage: Helping Young People Discover the Creative Outlet of Theater (2 ed.). Random House Digital. p. 203. ISBN 0-8230-7746-2.
  5. ^ Helterbran, Valeri R. (2008). Exploring Idioms: A Critical-Thinking Resource for Grades 4–8. Maupin House Publishing. p. 24. ISBN 978-1-934338-14-8.
  6. ^ Lapucci, Carlo. Dizionario dei modi di dire della lingua italiana. (Garzanti-Vallardi, 1979)[page needed]
  7. ^ Urdang, Laurence; Hunsinger, Walter W.; LaRoche, Nancy (1985). Picturesque Expressions: A thematic dictionary (2 ed.). Gale Research. p. 321. ISBN 0-8103-1606-4.
  8. ^ McConnell, Joan; McConnell, Teena (1977). Ballet as Body Language. Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-012964-6.
  9. ^ "In Bocca al Lupo by Murder by Death".