handwriting

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have (hand)writing like chicken scratch

To have very poor, messy, and/or illegible handwriting, likened to the marks made in the dirt by a chicken. I can't understand these notes at all, you have handwriting like chicken scratch!
See also: chicken, have, like, scratch

read the handwriting on the wall

Fig. to anticipate what is going to happen by observing small hints and clues. (See also see the (hand)writing on the wall.) I know I am going to be fired. I can read the handwriting on the wall. Can't you read the handwriting on the wall? Can't you see what they are planning?
See also: handwriting, on, read, wall

the writing on the wall

also the handwriting on the wall
the likelihood that something bad will happen Area residents can see the writing on the wall and realize that if they don't cooperate with the police, these crimes will continue. As leaders, they should have seen the handwriting on the wall and come up with an alternative course of action.
Usage notes: often used with see, as in the examples
Etymology: based on a story in the Bible about Daniel, who reads the handwriting on the wall that predicts the end of the kingdom of Babylon
See also: on, wall, writing

the writing is on the wall

  (British, American & Australian) also the handwriting is on the wall (American)
if the writing is on the wall for a person or an organization, it is clear that they will fail or be unable to continue (often + for ) The team has lost its last six games and the writing is definitely on the wall for the manager. (British, American & Australian)
See drive up the wall, hit a wall, nail to the wall
See also: on, wall, writing

handwriting on the wall

Also, writing on the wall. A warning or presentiment of danger, as in The company was losing money, and seeing the handwriting on the wall, she started to look for another job . This expression comes from the Bible (Daniel 5:5-31), in which the prophet interprets some mysterious writing that a disembodied hand has inscribed on the palace wall, telling King Belshazzar that he will be overthrown.
See also: handwriting, on, wall

handwriting on the wall

A dire warning. The phrase comes from the Book of Daniel, in which the Persian king Belshazaar and his court see a disembodied hand appear during a feast and write on a wall, “Mene, Mene, Tekel u-Pharsin.” His seers unable to decipher the words, the king summons Daniel, who, keeping his interpretation streak intact: [see “feet of clay”], reveals that the words refer to Belshazaar's reign and his kingdom being in jeopardy. And sure enough, later that evening the king was murdered and his kingdom given to the Medes, just as Daniel had predicted. “The handwriting on the wall” or “the writing on the wall” came to refer to any prediction or omen that a venture was doomed to failure.
See also: handwriting, on, wall