Word of the Day



a belief that things such as magic or luck have the power to affect your life

Origin and usage

The Middle English word superstition derives from the Latin ‘superstitio’.


In modern times, superstition has become a point of focus in both popular culture and the study of psychology. The most basic scientific description of superstition is an irrational establishment of cause and effect based on something other than logic. As society has grown to become more dependent on science as a means of understanding the world, superstition has developed more negative associations. If someone is described as superstitious, it usually means that they find casual or accidental events more significant than they should be, linking the outcome of events to luck or fortune. People who hold with superstitions will often avoid certain situations without logical reason.

Superstitions are often associated with concepts such as luck and prophecy, but they can also refer to aspects of folklore. Perhaps one of the most common and persistent superstitions is the belief that the number 13 is unlucky. In fact, the fear of the bad luck associated with this number is so prevalent that many buildings will skip labelling the 13th floor entirely.

Different myths and beliefs that shape various cultures around the world give rise to different kinds of superstitions from one place to the next. In the United States, for example, it is commonly considered bad luck for a black cat to cross your path, but in other places in the world, cats are thought of as a sign of good fortune regardless of their colour. In theatrical circles, many actors will avoid saying the title of William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, and will refer to it as ‘the Scottish Play’ instead.


“Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition.”

(Adam Smith)

“The root of all superstitions is that men observe when a thing hits, but not when it misses.”

(Francis Bacon)


unfounded belief, credulity, old wives’ tale, notion

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary is an award-winning, one-stop reference for English learners and speakers around the world.

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