the writing is on the wall


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Financial, Encyclopedia.

the (hand)writing is on the wall

There are very apparent signs that something bad will happen in the future. The phrase comes from the Biblical story of Daniel, 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. You need to resign now. The writing is on the wall, and there's no reason you need to go down with this company when it folds. The handwriting is on the wall for many aquatic species, but there is hope that we can make some changes to save some of them.
See also: on, wall

the writing is on the wall

mainly BRITISH or

the handwriting is on the wall

mainly AMERICAN
COMMON If you say the writing is on the wall or the handwriting is on the wall, you mean that there are clear signs that a situation is going to become difficult or unpleasant, or that something or someone is going to fail. The writing is clearly on the wall. If we do nothing about it, we shall only have ourselves to blame. The handwriting was on the wall for Peters when she lost the first set 6-1 in less than 20 minutes. Note: You can call something the writing on the wall or the handwriting on the wall when it seems to be a sign of something unpleasant which is likely to happen in the future. He saw the writing on the wall and knew he had to get out of the company before it collapsed. Note: This expression comes from a Bible story in which a mysterious hand appears and writes a message on the wall, announcing that Belshazzar's kingdom will soon come to an end. (Daniel 5)
See also: on, wall, writing

the writing is on the wall

there are clear signs that something unpleasant or unwelcome is going to happen.
This phrase comes from the biblical story of Belshazzar's feast, at which a disembodied hand appeared and wrote a message on the wall foretelling the fall of the Babylonian kingdom to the Medes and Persians (Daniel 5:5, 25–8). A North American variant is the handwriting is on the wall .
1998 Spectator We ought to have spotted the writing on the wall when the dear old Ministry of Works became ‘English Heritage’, packaging the past as a set of limited-edition, special-offer collectables.
See also: on, wall, writing