The worm has turned

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The idiom the worm has turned dates back at least to the 1500s. We will examine the meaning of the idiom the worm has turned, from where this expression is derived, and some examples of its use in sentences.

The worm has turned means that someone who has previously been downtrodden has triumphed, someone who has previously been unlucky has become lucky, or someone who has previously been obedient has spoken up. The idea is that someone’s attitude toward another or his strength of conviction has changed. The idiom the worm has turned is derived from a much older saying found in John Heywood’s 1546 proverb collection: “Treade a worme on the tayle, and it must turne agayne.” The idea was popularized by William Shakespeare in his play Henry VI, Part 3: “The smallest worm will turn being trodden on…” The phrase appears as the worm has turned starting sometime in the mid-1800s.


Judging from actual uses of the phrase — the worm has turned or the worm will turn – we either haven’t made up our minds what it means or we bend the meaning as needed to fit the situation. (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

The Worm Has Turned: Thanks to Demand for Artisanal Spirits, Mezcal is Having Its Moment of Mystique (The San Antonio Current)

As the worm has turned against Big Tech in the last few years, many experts, especially on the left, have called for a rethinking of antitrust. (Bloomberg News)

It seems that the worm has turned in Oakland County, as the most brisk business I have seen in any provisioning center takes place right across the street from a frozen lake with ice skaters and fishing shanties. (The Detroit Metro Times)