FREE! Click here to Join FunTrivia. Thousands of games, quizzes, and lots more!
Fun Trivia
Home: Questions and Answers Forum
Answers to 100,000 Fascinating Questions
Welcome to FunTrivia's Question & Answer forum!

Search All Questions

Please cite any factual claims with citation links or references from authoritative sources. Editors continuously recheck submissions and claims.

Archived Questions

Goto Qn #

What does the phrase "The worm has turned" mean?

Question #111898. Asked by star_gazer.
Last updated Oct 25 2016.

Related Trivia Topics: Linguistics   Vocabulary   Idioms and Proverbs  
dcpddc478 star
Answer has 16 votes
Currently Best Answer
dcpddc478 star
16 year member
120 replies avatar

Answer has 16 votes.

Currently voted the best answer.
The worm turns comes from an old proverb, "Tread on a worm and it will turn," meaning that even the most defenseless creature will, when sufficiently provoked, attempt to defend itself.

Shakespeare used it in Henry VI, where he wrote, "The smallest worm will turn, being trodden on / And doves will peck in safeguard of their brood."
Even a worm will turn is an expression used to convey the message that even the meekest or most docile of creatures will retaliate or get revenge if pushed too far. The phrase was first recorded in a 1546 collection of proverbs by John Heywood, in the form "Treade a worme on the tayle, and it must turne agayne." It was used in William Shakespeare's play Henry VI, Part 3.


Response last updated by Terry on Oct 25 2016.
Jan 04 2010, 6:21 PM
looney_tunes star
Answer has 9 votes
looney_tunes star
19 year member
3289 replies avatar

Answer has 9 votes.
Most commonly, it is a phrase used when someone who has always been weak and obedient starts to behave more confidently or take control of a situation.


Jan 04 2010, 7:45 PM
Answer has 9 votes
18 year member
2119 replies

Answer has 9 votes.
A couple of references:

It's one of many derived forms of an old proverb, the base of which is either tread on a worm and it will turn or even a worm will turn. It means 'even the most humble will strike back if abused enough'.
The proverb is first recorded in John Heywood's 1546 collection of proverbs in the form: "Tread a woorme on the tayle and it must turne agayne." Shakespeare uses it, of course: "The smallest worm will turn, being trodden on" (Henry VI, part III). It has remained common in all sorts of literature: "He's a very meek type. Still, the worm will turn, or so they say." (Agatha Christie, The Mirror Crack'd).


But while the lowly worm definitely gets no respect, even the lowliest critter has its limits, which brings us to the saying that's been puzzling you all these years.
It comes from a very old proverb, "Tread on a worm and it will turn," meaning that even the humblest creature (or person) will resent being badly treated and eventually revolt. The first written form of this adage yet found comes from 1546, and Shakespeare invoked it in his 1593 Henry VI, part II: "The smallest Worme will turne, being troden on." The poet Robert Browning gave the sentiment a bit more pathos in his dramatic monologue "Mr. Sludge the 'Medium'" in 1864: "Tread on a worm, it turns, sir! If I turn, Your fault!"

Just what a worm can hope to accomplish by turning on its tormentor is a bit unclear, but in this case it really is the thought that counts. Extended to human beings, "the worm will turn" speaks of the indomitable human resistance to tyranny...


Worms of the world, turn!

Response last updated by Terry on Oct 25 2016.
Jan 05 2010, 12:06 AM
star_gazer star
Answer has 3 votes
star_gazer star
22 year member
5236 replies avatar

Answer has 3 votes.
"Well the worm has definitely turned for you man."


Jan 05 2010, 12:54 AM
free email trivia FREE! Get a new mixed Fun Trivia quiz each day in your email. It's a fun way to start your day!

arrow Your Email Address:

Sign in or Create Free User ID to participate in the discussion

Related FunTrivia Quizzes

play quiz Help My Ear Worm, Please!
( Music Grab Bag)
play quiz Is That Spaghetti or is it a Worm?
(Guess the Object)
play quiz Worm Hole Revelations
(Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)

Return to FunTrivia
"Ask FunTrivia" strives to offer the best answers possible to trivia questions. We ask our submitters to thoroughly research questions and provide sources where possible. Feel free to post corrections or additions. This is server B184.