“Woke Up on the Wrong Side of the Bed” – Phrase Origin

Almost everyone who speaks English will have heard the phrase “woke up on the wrong side of the bed.” It’s a famous phrase used for people who are angry or in a generally bad mood, but where did it come from?

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The phrase “woke up on the wrong side of the bed” is thought to have originated in ancient Rome. Ancient Romans had superstitions that getting out of bed on the left would bring them bad luck, but getting out on the right would give them a good start to their day.

The rest of this article will discuss the origins of the phrase “woke up on the wrong side of the bed” in greater detail. Be sure to read on if you want to learn more!

Roman Origins of “Woke Up on the Wrong Side of the Bed”

The earliest known origins of the phrase “woke up on the wrong side of the bed” date back to ancient Roman times. However, it’s important to note that no one knows for sure where the saying initially came from—all we can do is make educated guesses.

Still, there is a good reason why so many people agree that it must have originated in ancient Rome. During that period, Romans were superstitious about many things.

For example, they believed they could cure headaches by wrapping certain herbs around their necks or that the 12 zodiac signs controlled different areas of the human body. These are just two superstitions—there were many more!

Since getting out of bed on the left side was considered bad luck, they would always make sure to get out on the right side. However, it’s not just the left side of the bed that was considered a bad omen. Ancient Romans also considered left-handed people untrustworthy, unlucky, and possibly evil.

So, ancient Romans likely had a general distaste for the left side of most things, which brought up the phrase “woke up on the wrong side of the bed.” However, there is no proof that the saying began in ancient Rome. No written evidence exists, so we may never know for sure. 

If the ancient Romans did coin the phrase, it certainly wouldn’t have been in English. After all, they only spoke Latin during that time. 

For that reason (and considering the lack of written proof from ancient Roman times), it’s generally assumed that the idea of waking up on the wrong side of the bed originated in ancient Rome. But the actual phrase came much later, possibly in a different part of the world.

First Uses of “Woke Up on the Wrong Side of the Bed”

While the original idea of waking up on the wrong side of the bed is likely to have originated in ancient Rome, the first use of the accompanying phrase likely came later.

The first known uses of the phrase occurred around the 18th and 19th centuries. For example, a man by the name of Bruce Campbell wrote an obituary for someone in 1850, where he said the person often “got out on the wrong side of the bed.” This written obituary is one of the earliest examples of the phrase, and it’s certainly from much later than ancient Roman times!

Still, just because this is one of the first written examples of the phrase doesn’t mean it’s the first time it was used. It’s likely that the phrase was around before the 1850s. 

The phrase “woke up on the wrong side of the bed” is considered a lighthearted way to make fun of someone. This particular idiom likely became popular because of its funny and joke-like nature. But of course, there’s no way to know how it became so popular.

It became popular in many English-speaking nations over time, and it’s almost always used to make fun of someone in a harmless way. As humans, we like humor, and we often like to joke with others, so it’s no surprise that the saying stuck around.

True Meaning of “Woke Up on the Wrong Side of the Bed”

When you hear someone using the phrase “woke up on the wrong side of the bed,” the person they’re talking about is likely in a bad mood.

That’s precisely what the phrase means. Generally, someone who is angry for seemingly no reason is assumed to have woken up on the wrong side of the bed. An example of a sentence would be as follows:

“Joyce has been angry and short-tempered all day. She must have woken up on the wrong side of the bed.”

There’s no deeper meaning to the idiom. It indicates that someone is one (or some) of the following for no apparent reason:

  • Angry
  • Tired
  • Stand-offish
  • Abnormally quiet

While the origins of the phrase date back to ancient Romans (and their belief that getting out on the left side of the bed is bad luck), the term itself doesn’t have anything to do with bad luck or superstitions.

Is the Left Side of the Bed Unlucky?

The left side of the bed isn’t unlucky. The ancient Romans were highly superstitious, and one of the most common superstitions was that waking up and leaving the bed on the left side was a bad omen. However, this has never been a proven fact.

People find comfort in superstitions because it makes them feel in control of their lives, particularly in times of distress or uncertainty, according to an article by the Open University

So, the idea that waking up on the right side of the bed avoided bad luck likely made many ancient Romans feel like they were in control of their misfortune. In turn, they felt more at ease. 

But of course, if a Roman had gotten up on the left side of their bed, nothing terrible would have happened as a direct result of it. It was merely a superstition.

So, you don’t have to worry about what side of the bed you wake up on. The right side is not luckier than the left, and the left is not luckier than the right.

What Side of the Bed Should You Get Out Of?

You should get out of either side of the bed. Whichever side is most comfortable for you is the one you should use. You won’t experience any bad luck from getting out of a particular side of the bed.

Although the saying “woke up on the wrong side of the bed” indicates there is a wrong side of the bed (and you must avoid that side), this is not true. While the ancient Romans (and possibly others) believed there was a wrong or evil side to the bed, you can rest assured that nothing terrible will happen if you get out on the left side!

Other things are more important to consider when it comes to happiness in your bed and a good night’s sleep. For example, a good view of the bedroom door is shown to ensure a greater sleep and overall experience. So, once you focus on other essential things, the side of the bed you get out of doesn’t matter (or affect your luck and happiness) at all.

Why Were Romans So Superstitious?

Romans were superstitious because they didn’t have a detailed understanding of life and science back then. Therefore, they believed in many things that wouldn’t be considered logical by today’s standards.

It’s easy to say how ridiculous some of their superstitions were, particularly waking up on the wrong side of the bed. However, you must remember how little people knew and understood about the world back then.

The Romans didn’t have most of the knowledge we have today, so it’s only natural that they would create and believe in many different superstitions. As I mentioned earlier in this article, people believe in superstitions because it makes them feel in control of their lives. These superstitions were a way for Romans to try and understand their lives so they could be in control.

So, although the term “woke up on the wrong side of the bed” comes from a superstition that says the left side of the bed equates to evil, this is no longer the general belief. Today, it’s simply a harmless phrase that (most likely) evolved from an old superstition.

Superstitions in Today’s World

While possibly more prominent in ancient times, superstitions still exist in today’s society. One of the most common superstitions today is that Friday the 13th will always be a day of bad luck. 

Another one is that walking under a ladder is bad luck. Or that a bird pooping on you is good luck.

Even though we’re more educated and have a greater understanding of how life works (compared to the ancient Romans), many people still believe in various superstitions.

In fact, some people still believe that waking up on a particular side of the bed is bad luck. 

Conclusion

The phrase “woke up on the wrong side of the bed” most likely originated in ancient Roman times. Ancient Romans believed that getting out of bed on the left side was bad luck, so they would always avoid it.

Although there was no written proof of the phrase until the 19th century, many believe it came from the Romans. Still, it’s not just waking up on the wrong side of the bed that they were superstitious about. Ancient Romans also believed that left-handed people were unlucky, for example.

Sources

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