The idea that it is a bad omen to stumble is one of the few superstitions which have sufficient documentary record to indicate a clear lineage in English folk belief back to medieval times and beyond, with a relatively unchanged meaning. The list of citations in England starts in 1180 with Nigel De Longchamps, Mirror for Fools, and includes Spenser, Shepheardes Calendar (1579), Scot (1584), Shakespeare, Webster, Aubrey, and many more right through to the 20th century. Stumbling on the way out means your journey or mission will go badly, stumbling on the way in (e.g. at the threshold) means that danger or ill luck lurks inside. Opie and Tatem provide all the main references, and two much earlier ones: Plutarch (c.110 ad) and Saint Augustine of Hippo (c.396 ad). Particularly ill-omened, however, is to stumble in a graveyard (Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet (1592), v. iii).
   See also *stairs. Opie and Tatem, 1989: 380-1.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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