The phrases the handwriting on the wall and the writing on the wall are idioms that have their roots in a story that is thousands of years old. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning. We will examine the meaning of the phrases the handwriting on the wall and the writing on the wall, where these terms came from and some examples of their use in sentences.
The handwriting on the wall and the writing on the wall describes the signs of an approaching doom, a signal that some catastrophe is about to occur. Most often, the terms are used to indicate the ability or inability to understand that a catastrophe is approaching, as seen in the phrases read the handwriting on the wall or see the handwriting on the wall. These idioms come from a story in the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament of the Bible. In the tale, the king of Babylon is throwing a feast using vessels stolen from the Jewish Temple, blaspheming and worshipping idols. A hand appears and writes a mysterious message on the wall. The king calls upon Daniel to interpret the message for him. Daniel reads the handwriting on the wall, interpreting the message as a warning that the Babylonian king’s rule is coming to a swift end. Which immediately comes to pass.
“[Voters in the district] saw the handwriting on the wall and said, ‘Hey look, we better get moving, we better turn out, we better make sure everybody knows what’s at stake here,'” he said. (Boise Weekly)
Gohmert said he had initially been hopeful about Mueller’s replacement at the FBI, James Comey, until “we began to see the handwriting on the wall.” (The Global Dispatch)
Though many see Thambidurai’s visit to Bengaluru prison to meet Sasikala Natarajan as an effort to placate her, BJP leaders say it could have been to issue a stern message that the family should ‘see the writing on the wall and refrain from meddling in party affairs’. (The Deccan Chronicle)