The worm has turned

The idiom the worm has turned dates back at least to the 1500s. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, on the ball, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. 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)

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