Take a Turn for the Worse: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
October 8, 2023

When we say that something has "taken a turn for the worse," we are expressing that a situation or a person's condition has deteriorated or become more unfavorable or bad. This is generally used to talk about a sudden or unexpected decline in health, a situation, or a project.

In short:

"Take a turn for the worse" denotes a sudden decline or worsening in a situation or health condition.

What Does "Take a Turn for the Worse" Mean?

The idiom "take a turn for the worse" generally refers to a decline in a situation or a person's health condition. It carries a somewhat negative connotation, indicating unexpected or undesired complications. Here, we delve deeper into the implications and nuances of this expression:

Let's dive into its core meanings and usage:

  • It can describe a sudden deterioration in a person’s health.
  • It might indicate a project or plan's declining quality or success rate.
  • In some contexts, it can also refer to worsening weather conditions.

This expression emphasizes the abruptness of the change, suggesting that the situation or condition took a negative turn suddenly and not gradually.

Where Does "Take a Turn for the Worse" Come From?

The idiom “take a turn for the worse” is believed to have originated in the 1800s. It integrates the idea of "taking a turn," which means experiencing change, with "for the worse," expressing a negative direction.

Historical Usage

Though specific instances of its earliest uses are hard to pinpoint, we can find this idiom in literature and reports dating back to the 19th century.

"...his illness took a turn for the worse, prompting urgent calls for his family..." - from a 19th-century newspaper archive.

10 Examples of "Take a Turn for the Worse" in Sentences

Understanding this idiom can be easier when we see it used in various sentences. Below, find a series of examples illustrating different contexts:

  • When the project took a sudden turn for the worse, several team members got axed to cut costs
  • The weather took a sudden turn for the worse, with heavy rains and winds.
  • I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the company's financial health has taken a turn for the worse.
  • His attitude took a turn for the worse after receiving negative feedback.
  • The negotiation took a turn for the worse when, out of nowhere, new demands were placed on the table.
  • The economy took a noticeable turn for the worse in the last quarter.
  • Relations between the two colleagues took a turn for the worse, with each person's accusations only stoking the flames of the dispute.
  • The political climate in the country took a turn for the worse after the controversial legislation was passed.
  • Relations between the two countries took a turn for the worse due to border disputes.
  • After the main sponsor pulled the rug from under us, the event planning took a turn for the worse.

Examples of "Take a Turn for the Worse" in Pop Culture

While this idiom is grounded in real situations and often used in serious contexts, it has also found its way into popular culture, including movies, TV shows, and songs. Here, we take a look at some instances where it has been utilized:

  • The phrase was used in a TV news report discussing a celebrity's health conditions in a real-life scenario.
  • In the book "Life As We Knew It" by Susan Beth Pfeffer, the phrase describes deteriorating circumstances resulting from a natural disaster.
  • A character in the series "Grey's Anatomy" used this phrase during an emotional moment in the storyline.

Note that the phrase often appears in popular culture's serious, dramatic, or negative contexts.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "Take a Turn for the Worse"

The idiom "take a turn for the worse" can be replaced with other phrases or words with similar meanings in different contexts. Some of these synonyms include:

  • Deteriorate
  • Worsen
  • Decline

These words can be used in various scenarios to indicate a drop in quality, health, or circumstances, similar to our original idiom.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Take a Turn for the Worse":

  • What does the idiom “take a turn for the worse” mean?

It means experiencing a sudden deterioration or worsening in a situation or health condition.

  • Where did the idiom originate?

The exact origin is unclear, but it is believed to have been first used in the 1800s.

  • Can this idiom be used to describe various situations?

Yes, it can describe a decline in various situations including health, economic conditions, relationships, and more.

  • Is it appropriate to use this phrase in formal writing?

Yes, it is considered appropriate in both formal and informal contexts.

  • Can this idiom refer to positive changes?

No, it exclusively refers to negative or undesirable changes.

  • Can we use this idiom to describe gradual changes?

While it typically denotes sudden changes, it can sometimes be used to describe gradual declines as well.

  • Is this idiom used globally, or is it restricted to certain regions?

It is widely understood and used globally, though it might be more prevalent in English-speaking countries.

  • Are there any songs that use this phrase in the lyrics?

While there may be songs that use this phrase, pinpointing specific titles is challenging due to the common usage of the phrase.

  • Can this phrase be used in a literal sense?

Yes, it can be used to describe a literal change or deterioration in something, like weather conditions.

  • What are some synonyms for this idiom?

Some synonyms include "deteriorate," "worsen," and "decline."

Final Thoughts About "Take a Turn for the Worse"

"Take a turn for the worse" is commonly used to describe a situation that has deteriorated or become worse suddenly. It can refer to various scenarios, such as a person's health, a project, or even weather conditions taking a downturn. Whether you are narrating a real-life incident where things didn't go as planned or illustrating a scenario in a story, "take a turn for the worse" helps in conveying a sudden downward shift effectively.

Here's a quick wrap-up:

  • The idiom denotes a sudden, unfavorable change or deterioration in a situation or condition.
  • It originated in the 1800s and is used globally.
  • It can be used in serious real-life situations and dramatic portrayals in popular culture.

We encourage you to share this article on Twitter and Facebook. Just click those two links - you'll see why.

It's important to share the news to spread the truth. Most people won't.

Copyright © 2024 - U.S. Dictionary
Privacy Policy