Work wonders and wonder-worker are idioms that have been in use for at least 500 years. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, 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 like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. 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; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common sayings work wonders and wonder-worker, where they came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.
To work wonders means to do something miraculous, to achieve something that was very hard to accomplish, to accomplish something that seems as if it were done by magic. The expression work wonders goes back at least to 1500, and perhaps farther. The phrase originally referred to truly miraculous deeds that were accomplished by supernatural beings; the term work wonders soon came to mean to accomplish something as if by a miracle. The expression work wonders can be traced to the Old English word, wundorweorc, meaning miracle.
A wonder-worker is someone who accomplishes something very difficult, seemingly by performing a miracle or using magic. The expression wonder-worker is a hyphenated compound word. A compound word is a word derived from two or more separate words used together to create another word. Note that according to the Oxford English Dictionary, wonder-worker takes a hyphen.
However, enzyme cleaners can work wonders on a red-wine-stained carpet if they contain protease, which tackles protein-based stains like wine and blood. (Sun Sentinel)
The name is somewhat misleading because, while it does work wonders when it comes to hydrating the cuticle (the skin around the nail bed), it’s also great for nails themselves. (Shape Magazine)
Mao’s words from the 1961 poem Reply to Comrade Kuo Mo-Jo “Today, a miasmal mist once more rising, we hail Sun Wu-kung, the wonder-worker” was also widely circulated on social media on Saturday, as many netizens become sentimental after the year 2020 was plagued heavily by COVID-19 that has made life more difficult. (Global Times)
Father Mollinger had been rumored to possess the healing powers of the “wonder-worker” St. Anthony, whose annual feast day fell on June 13. (Smithsonian Magazine)