The beginning of a expression can shade your audience’s perception of its use. Beware the potential pitdrops behind these widespread idiomatic expressions.

You are watching: Origin of cross my heart and hope to die

By Laura Hale BrockwayAug. 15, 2018

History is about even more than simply dates and also places—it’s storyinforming at its best.

While visiting Boston and the city’s historic sites this summer, I was captivated by the stories and storytellers I met there. Tied carefully to the history of Plymouth Rock, the Freedom Trail, and the Boston Tea Party is the language offered to tell those stories. As it transforms out, the language has actually a history of its own.

Many type of of our day-to-day idioms and expressions have actually dark beginnings that date back to early american times. Consider the history of these terms the following time you usage them.

1. “Riot act”

Have you ever before remained in so much trouble that someone “review you the riot act”?

In 18th-century England also, the Riot Act was a law used to manage unruly crowds. If a magistprice identified that a group of 12 or even more people created a “riotous and also tumultuous assembly,” the magistrate would certainly check out them the Riot Act. If the group did not disperse within an hour of the reading, they can be arrested.

(Source: The Phrase Finder)

2. “Raise your right hand”

Ever wonder why witnesses are asked to raise their ideal hands prior to they testify? This practice days earlier to 17th-century England when criminals were regularly branded on the inside of their best hands to permanently mark the crimes they had committed. “T” was for theft. “M” for murder. “F” for felon.

By elevating their right hand also if they appeared in court aacquire, the judge and jury would know what crimes the witnesses had actually formerly committed.

(Source: Proceedings of the Old Bailey)

3. “Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye”

Though no one is specific precisely where this expression came from, many kind of believe it originated from eras of pester and contagion. Centuries back, infectious illness frequently swept via areas conveniently, sickening and killing people en masse.

To contain and also treat the condition, those who died of infection were often hidden in mass graves or were hidden easily after fatality. This sometimes brought about an unconscious or comatose patient being wrongly pronounced dead and also hidden. To avoid this, caregivers were shelp to stick a needle in the eye of the patient to encertain his or her fatality.

To say “cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye” wregarding look for assurance that you would not be hidden alive.

4. Saved by the bell.

Another way to stop being buried alive wregarding connect a bell to the exterior of your coffin that might be rung from inside the coffin. If you woke up while interred, you sindicate had to pull the rope to be “conserved by the bell.”

Several deindicators for these “safety coffins” were patented in the U.S. in the 1ninth century. However before, there are no credible references of anyone using these coffins or being conserved by them.

The more likely origin of the idiom originates from boxing. A boxer that is dvery own for a count of 10 seconds have the right to be conserved from defeat if the bell rings and marks the end of a round before the 10-second countdown is over.

(Source: The Phrase Finder)

How about it PR Daily readers? Do you have any idioms to share?

Laura Hale Brockway is an Austin-based writer and also editor, and also a regular contributor to PR Daily. Read more of her posts at

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Anonymous says: October 31, 2020 at 2:23 am

There’s no riot without the should attract attention to the police. No one chooses to say hope to die as a speak to to not be hidden alive. Third, you can’t brand also letters on your hand also that will certainly feed you & others, no one desires to be hurt for you to label them as somepoint a lot of that are guilty commit more crimes to blame the innocent. Lastly, a bell never conserved a life, particularly once a lot of are tone deaf to the dials of resurrection.

David says: November 26, 2020 at 11:21 pm

Didnt they offered to hang murderers or also steed thieves? It’s difficult to imagine that they’d brand people

Nolan says: April 6, 2021 at 6:43 pm

I prospered up hearing this expression regularly. However, initially time I heard “no crosses count?!” remained in my 20’s from a Jewish girl. It was amazing, however I did not want to repeat that, as I am a Catholic… crosses perform indeed count for us lol. I wonder if there is some linguistic background tbelow. Maybe non-Christians did not want to say cross my heart to swear, so they began saying no crosses count? I would love to learn even more around this.

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Jodi Junkins Shadle says: July 12, 2021 at 2:17 pm

They did indeed brand people convicted of particular crimes. In enhancement to those listed in the short article, they supplied P for piprice.In Piprices of the Caribbean, the Admiral transforms Jack Sparrow’s hand over and also there’s a P branded on his wrist. The Admiral automatically knows he’s been convicted of piracy formerly.