“Break a leg” is a well-known expression in theatre which means “good luck.” It is typically said to actors and musicians before a performance. The phrase reflects a theatrical superstition in which wishing a person “good luck” is considered bad luck. There are several theories behind the origin of the phrase. Below are some of the more popular:
The German phrase Hals und Beinbruch, means an invitation to break your neck and bones. It is used by aviators and is equivalent to Happy Landings! This may be a corruption of the Hebrew blessing, ‘hatzlakha u-brakha’, meaning ‘success and blessing’.
In traditional theatre curtains, the legs of the curtain were constructed from long wooden rods. In the case of many encores, curtains would be lifted and dropped numerous times causing them to “break.” An extension of this theory is when actors bow or curtsy, they place one foot behind the other and bend at the knee, “breaking” the line of the leg.