(third-person singular simple present touches wood, present participle touching wood, simple past and past participle touched wood)
- To make contact with wood to avert bad luck, in accordance with a folk practice.
- (idiomatic, UK, Australia, New Zealand) Hopefully; said while touching something wooden, to avert superstitious bad luck from what has just been said.
- And the reds are going to avoid relegation this year, touch wood.
The expression is used superstitiously to avert the possibility that something just mentioned (if it is a good thing) might not occur, or (if bad) might occur. The action may or may not be performed, depending on how literally the speaker adheres to the superstition. If it is taken literally, it is usual to attempt physically to touch some wooden object whilst, or shortly after, exclaiming touch wood. Failure to find and touch a wooden item within a short time may be considered ominous, and cause mental distress to the person involved.
From a folk practice of unclear origin.