writing on the wall, the

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

the ˌwriting (is) on the ˈwall

(American English the ˌhandwriting (is) on the ˈwall) (saying) used when you are describing a situation in which there are signs that somebody/something is going to have problems or is going to fail: The writing is on the wall for the club unless they can find £20 000.The President refuses to see the handwriting on the wall (= that he will soon be defeated).This phrase comes from the Bible story in which strange writing appeared on a wall during a feast given by King Belshazzar, predicting his death and the end of his kingdom.
See also: on, wall, writing

writing on the wall, the

A presentiment or prediction of disaster. The term comes from the Bible (Daniel 5:5–31). During a great feast held by King Belshazzar, a mysterious hand appears and writes some words on the wall. Daniel is called to interpret this message and tells the king it is a sign of his coming downfall. Later that night Belshazzar is killed and Darius of Persia takes over his kingdom. The term is sometimes put as handwriting on the wall.
See also: on, writing

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