worm turns: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘worm turns’ mean?

The idiom "worm turns" refers to a situation where someone who is usually submissive or weak suddenly becomes assertive or rebellious.

Idiom Explorer

Curious metamorphosis

The idiom "worm turns" has multiple meanings and origins. One interpretation of the idiom is when a quiet or timid person becomes defiant or stands up for themselves. It can also describe a situation where a weak or subordinate person gains power or authority over someone who is typically dominant. However, it's worth noting that this idiom is not commonly used in modern everyday language and may carry a slightly outdated connotation.

The early bird catches the worm, as they say.

The origin of the idiom can be traced back to a fable by Aesop, an ancient Greek storyteller, called "The Farmer and the Viper." In this fable, a farmer finds a viper frozen by the cold and takes it home to revive it. Once the viper recovers, it bites the farmer, leading to his demise. The moral of the fable is that kindness shown to the wicked is often met with betrayal. From this fable, the saying "The worm turns" evolved to depict a situation where even the meekest or weakest can retaliate or assert themselves.

Another possible origin of the idiom is from Shakespeare's play "Henry VI, Part 3." In Act 3, Scene 1, a character named Clifford uses the phrase "The worm is turned" to describe his frustration and anger over his enemies' winning streak. It represents a turning point where someone who was previously dominated or oppressed gains strength and rises against their oppressor. This usage in Shakespeare's play further solidifies the concept of the idiom.

Overall, the idiom "worm turns" symbolizes a surprising or sudden change in power dynamics, where the previously submissive or weak individual takes a stand or gains authority. Its origins in both Aesop's fables and Shakespeare's play emphasize the underlying themes of betrayal, resilience, and the potential for unexpected shifts in power.

The idiom "worm turns" is related to the idioms "turn the tables," "turn the tide," and "take a turn for the worse."

"Turn the tables" is a phrase used when someone reverses a situation, often to their advantage. It suggests a complete shift in power or fortune. In a similar vein, "worm turns" presents a scenario where a person defies expectations and gains power or authority over their oppressor. Both idioms convey the idea of unexpected changes and reversals in a situation.

"Turn the tide" is another related idiom that describes changing the outcome of a situation or reversing a negative trend. It signifies a shift in momentum or the beginning of a positive change. Similarly, "worm turns" depicts a sudden change in power dynamics, where the previously submissive or weak individual takes charge. Both idioms convey the notion of a significant shift or reversal in a situation's trajectory.

"Take a turn for the worse" refers to a situation deteriorating or becoming more challenging. It implies an unfavorable change or a downward spiral. In contrast, "worm turns" captures the idea of an unexpected change where the previously submissive or weak person asserts themselves and gains power. While "worm turns" highlights a change in power dynamics, "take a turn for the worse" emphasizes a negative shift or decline in a situation.

The idiom "worm turns" represents a surprising or sudden change in power dynamics. Its origins in Aesop's fables and Shakespeare's plays highlight themes of betrayal, resilience, and unexpected shifts in power. This idiom is related to the idioms "turn the tables," "turn the tide," and "take a turn for the worse," all of which convey similar notions of unexpected changes and reversals. Despite being less commonly used in contemporary language, the idiom "worm turns" serves as a reminder of the complexities of human nature and the potential for individuals to defy expectations.

Example usage

Examples of how the idiom *worm turns* can be used in a sentence:

  1. After years of being mistreated, the employee finally stood up for himself and showed his boss that the worm can turn.
  2. The bully realized the consequences of his actions when his victim finally decided that the worm would turn.
  3. Despite his quiet demeanor, everyone knew that the shy student had a breaking point and that the worm would turn if pushed too far.

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