Third time’s the charm

Third time’s the charm is an idiom that dates back to the 1800s. 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 that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, hit the nail on the head, kick the bucket, 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 third time’s the charm, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Third time’s the charm means the third attempt to do something will succeed, because the number three is considered lucky. A more cynical person might believe that success on the third try comes from learning from one’s first two attempts. Third time’s the charm is a phrase that is used when a third attempt succeeds; the phrase is also used as an affirmation before one begins the third attempt at something. The idiom third time’s the charm has its roots in the ancient belief that the number three is magical, but the phrase was first used in the early 1800s. A companion phrase is third time lucky, generally considered a British term.


American Thinker’s Doris O’Brien opines today that Clinton does have the hope “that through some third-time’s-the-charm magic she could at last realize her dream of becoming the first female president of the United States.” (The New American)

“Our goal is third time’s the charm, but it’s one game at a time.” (The Journal Gazette)

Hopefully, the third time’s the charm, and this go-around will have more staying power than the last. (The Shepherd Express)

The third time proved to be the charm today for Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s 5-year-old gelding Battaash (IRE), who after consecutive fourth-place finishes the last two years, finally won the five-furlong, $512,000 Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes (G1) at York in a scintillating 3 ¾-length course record victory under jockey Jim Crowley. (The Paulick Report)

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