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.

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.