Etymology of “luck”?

by Richard on September 8, 2009

Anyone out there got an OED? Last night on GodTV, Kenneth Copeland said that the origin of the word “luck” could be traced to “Lucifer”. I’m as sure as I can be that he was talking out of his hat, but if someone could give me chapter and verse (as it were), I’d be grateful.

Why am I bothered?

This wouldn’t be the first time I’ve come across high profile preachers just making stuff up, and their congregation audience just lapped it up. It irritates me no end.

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{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

1

DmL 09.08.09 at 4:03 pm

Heh, good luck. Actually most sites say it comes from “Middle Dutch: gheluc (happiness)”. Although this seems like a good time to point out the website of Michael Quinion, one of the editors of the OED, who has an awesome website about the etymology of english (both kinds) phrases.
http://www.worldwidewords.org/indexes/search.htm (the main page seems to be down at the moment, but search and such still work)

2

Tony Buglass 09.08.09 at 4:44 pm

He’s talking bilge. As DH says, it’s from a teutonic root. Lucifer is from the Latin for light, in turn from the Greek leukos “white”. So unless he can show that glucklich, gelucke, etc are derived from light and white, no chance.

3

Tony Buglass 09.08.09 at 4:45 pm

Oops - that’s DmL, not DH. However, you never know - DH might agree!

4

Richard 09.08.09 at 5:04 pm

Thanks. That’s a good website tip.

A bit of googling reveals that this ‘link’ between Lucifer and Luck is quite well-established in certain Christian circles, so I was wrong to assume that Kenneth Copeland made it up. But he ought not to be repeating such obvious rubbish.

5

fat prophet 09.08.09 at 5:27 pm

I would be very surprised if DH agreed he doesn’t normally

6

Allan R. Bevere 09.08.09 at 8:45 pm

Richard, Not only can “luck” be traced to “Lucifer,” but “Santa” comes from the word “Satan;” but the latter should not concern you since you folks on the other side of the pond do that Father Christmas thing. :-)

7

Kim 09.08.09 at 9:29 pm

A bit of googling reveals that this ‘link’ between Lucifer and Luck is quite well-established in certain Christian circles, so … - so the link is ideologically suspicious for sure. Tony’s right: this “Christian” etymology is bilge. (In fact, put a “Christian” in front of several nouns and you can be sure it’s bilge - e.g. Christian music, or Christian science.) And how’s this for irony: according to my Simpson’s calendar, today is International Literacy Day!

8

Tony Buglass 09.09.09 at 7:59 am

And there’s the one about the dyslexic satanist who found he’d been worshipping Father Christmas all these years…

9

Richard 09.09.09 at 9:15 am

The old ones are the best, Tony! ;)

10

DH 09.09.09 at 6:06 pm

Well guys, you will be surprised that I don’t believe “luck” comes from “Lucifer”. At least I don’t see any evidence that this is the case. I will say that I would rather use “blessing” as opposed to “luck” in that luck implies an asking for something outside of God as opposed to asking for God’s “may God bless you” as opposed to “good luck”. However, I find myself saying “good luck” more often then saying the blessing thing so I’m not a legalist with regard to the term. On the surface I see nothing wrong with saying “good luck” as one understands the foundational biblical context that God is omnipotent.

Richard and crew, I agree with you all. :)

11

Tony Buglass 09.09.09 at 8:38 pm

Hallelujah! All is now complete, the End can come! ;)

12

Beth 09.10.09 at 8:43 am

From my desk at the OED, I would like to take this opportunity to confirm what you already know - there is no link whatsoever! It’s a late Germanic word, a shortened form of “gelueck”, which produced modern German “glueck”. It probably came into English as a gambling term. The first attestation of its use is in the late 1400s.

13

Kim 09.10.09 at 10:58 am

Just what I was waiting for. Dea dixit!

14

mike 10.19.09 at 2:46 pm

i’d like to wish you all “good luck”.

15

Bexter 05.24.10 at 12:19 pm

Did you hear the one about the agnostic, dyslexic insomniac who was up all night worrying about the existance of a Dog.

Boom Boom,

ithankyou!

16

Manu 12.26.10 at 1:50 pm

Lucifer, Latin for light; Greek leukos “white”; teuton glucklich, gelucke…
could be ‘luck’ a contraction of ‘leukos’, uh’? Then you have glucklich, gelucke…

17

Anonymous 01.15.11 at 4:30 am

Maybe Mr. Copeland should put down his bible for just a second, and pick up a diccionary of the english language, and proceed to read it slowly and meditate in the actual meaning of the english words that his bible is written in. If not willing to acctually read the diccionary, he should rip each page and slowly chew them and swallow them, with the hope that the next time he pulls words and their meaning out of his ass they are more likely to be accurate

18

Maybe 01.17.11 at 2:52 pm

I had heard that the connection between Lucifer and ‘Luck’ was Scandanavian in origin (a derivitive of german) that was a derivation of Loki. So, an old Norseman may say “Good Loki”, meaning may that Trickster Loki be good to you instead of bad, since you never knew what he was going to do. Loki then, from a Christian perspective, is then the Norse representation of Lucifer, just as “The Great Spirit in the Sky” worshipped by Indians is God.

19

Richard 01.17.11 at 3:40 pm

Alas — I fear that this is tosh.

20

Andy 08.04.11 at 10:00 am

The germanic link is clear of course. But I wonder if there is an oral connection right back to Saskrit - the Hindu godless of wealth and good fortune is Lackshmi - except that Indians pronounce it Lucksmi . .

21

Bishop Jackson 02.12.12 at 12:27 pm

As usual, people miss the deeper spiritual point. Whether the etymology of luck can be directly traced to Lucifer or not, the concept of “luck” presupposes a random universe rather than one in which God moves in the affairs of those who seek His help. If I have God, I do not need luck. If I need luck, I do not respect God’s power to help me. From a biblical and Christian perspective, luck is directly tied to Lucifer as a way of relating to the world without God. I never use the word. To me, while it is used with the best of intentions, it is a form of blasphemy, particularly when used by the believer in Jesus Christ, whose hope and trust should be solely in Him. I know it is is done mostly out of habit and without mal-intent, but Christians really ought to know better.

22

Richard 02.12.12 at 1:36 pm

You might be right about ‘the deeper spiritual point’, but that point is not advanced by spouting nonsense about etymology as though it were the truth.

23

Kim 02.12.12 at 8:31 pm

There is no deeper spiritual point — at least not in contemporary conventional usage. When people say “Good luck!”, they are simply expressing their desire and hope that things turn out well for you in the upcoming game, interview, exam, or whatever. They are hardly, in most cases, implying an underlying godless worldview (and why might they be expressing “mal-intent”?). They might even add, without inconsistency, “I will pray for you.” On the other hand, to consider “Good luck!” to be a form of blasphemy might suggest a rather creepy, if not paranoid, mindset.

24

Richard 02.12.12 at 10:12 pm

You get no argument from me, Kim. But you knew that.

25

Mark Byron 02.13.12 at 4:13 am

If DH agreeing with you signals the coming apocalypse, my agreeing with Kim will confirm that the end is nigh.

People often use “good luck” without any theological thinking yea or nay, even in church circles, since that’s a common wish/prayer for success. Trying to churchify it by some “may God bless your performance on the pitch” construct doesn’t quite work and would sound, to borrow from Kim, creepy.

26

Dave 03.02.12 at 5:18 am

I agree with the preacher. If you say good luck you are saying I do not believe God is for me and His son died for me….Good luck to you

27

Kim 03.02.12 at 7:53 am

I guess I’m gonna need it where you sound pretty sure I’m going, right, Dave? But you just be careful about bearing false witness.

28

Bob Gilston 03.03.12 at 12:58 pm

Dave - Please answer me this! I am sitting an exam which has multi-choice questions. I don’t know the answer to a particular question but as advised by the teacher I tick a box. Any box, as long as I tick something. Hey Presto - I tick the right box and get an extra mark in my exam. Pure luck isn’t it? When I was wished “good luck” before the exam, that wasn’t a lack of belief in God was it?

29

Ty 05.24.12 at 9:42 pm

Earlier, it was said: Lucifer, Latin for light; Greek leukos “white”; teuton glucklich, gelucke…
could be ‘luck’ a contraction of ‘leukos’

“Lucifer” means “light barer.” This was before he was cast out of heaven. Satan is not a “light barer” anymore, but, the New Testament says he can make himself “appear as an angel of light.” So, it is one way he is a deceiver.

30

amazed 07.12.12 at 2:55 pm

Wow! that wasn’t false witness - it was more like shaking the dust off ones feet. False witness is giving false testamony infront of the counsel. Today we call that perjury. Shaking off the dust is more like “washing ones hands” from the situation and allowing them to do as they please and just not arguing. Today we call that, getting along. You realize this debate has lasted over two years? Religion, tradition, and ceremony has gotten in the way of one’s personal relationship with God. Everyone will reach a moment of truth - hopefully during life. I wish everyone the best in your personal search for eternal truth.

31

Richard 07.12.12 at 6:46 pm

I don’t think I understand your comment, amazed.

32

Doxology Data 11.03.12 at 3:58 am

Bishop Jackson - well said! I do not use the word, either - for the same reason. There is BLESSING and CURSING, not luck. Death and Life. The law of sin and death or the law of the Spirit in Christ Jesus. Christians should NOT use the word “luck”!

33

Vincent 11.08.12 at 10:12 am

Kenneth Copeland is right.God does not operate in good or bad Lucky?Check in the bible and you will not see the word in his Vocabulary

34

Richard 11.09.12 at 3:55 pm

‘Luck’ may not be in God’s vocabulary — I suspect it is, but I’ll let that go — but that isn’t the point: Kenneth Copeland clearly wasn’t right in any sense. He claimed that the word ‘luck’ is derived from ‘Lucifer’, which it plainly isn’t. That’s a made-up fact. ie Not a fact at all.

35

Jon 11.17.12 at 8:43 pm

I arrived here a few days after wishing my mother good luck at work. Being a superchristian and avid fan of Mr. Copeland, this obviously disturbed her deeply. It got to me, as she didn’t see it as her son wishing her prosperity, health, happiness, etc as she ventured to a job she does not like, but rather as a blasphemous and evil saying…. which to me, is a bit bizarre. If your religion is able to filter my good wishes into that, well … I don’t even know what to say.

Anyway, she tells me 2 days later that luck is rooted in lucifer… and though I admitted that was a possibility I wanted to confirm. The way I see it, oldest evidence (read: 1400’s) available points to it’s germanic roots in the word Gelucke, so that trumps Mr. Copeland by a few centuries. Then come to find the latin roots for Lucifer are l?x + fer? (or light bearer) I believe we can put this to rest.

THIS IS NOT TO SAY that Christians should believe in Luck, or that luck is a good/bad thing (though I am of the opinion that wishing someone luck should not be taken as an insult). I am disappointed that Mr. Copeland, with the influence he has, would make such a connection (and label it as a teaching) even though it seems to have little to no evidence backing it. Once again I respect anyone’s opinion to believe luck as unholy, or really whatever, but don’t equate it as rooted in the word Lucifer, unless it really is rooted in the word Lucifer! That is all.

SHOUTOUT to Bishop Allen, sticking to his guns amidst a sea of evidence to the contrary. That has to be considered as some sort of dedication.

36

Chris 01.22.13 at 3:17 am

I am a Christian, and i don’t use the word luck to encourage or build people up, or wish they do good at something, that’s pretty iffy. I Bless people all the time! I believe way more in Kenneth Copeland, because he studies God’s Word everyday! I speak God’s Word,and have Faith to believe what God says is true. If luck does come from the Word od Lucifer, i don’t want to wish that on anyone, so i just will never say that! ewww!

37

Kim 01.22.13 at 7:16 pm

Talk about a thread unravelling… BTW, is that the Kenneth Copeland of “Lucifer Ministries Ltd.”?

38

Symphathy 05.03.13 at 1:25 pm

The basis of the statement is from the word. God called that we walk in blessing. No where in the bible do we speak of living by luck. If we recognize that nothing happens by chance, we will understand the origin of the word luck.

Refer to: - Deutronomy 28:1 - If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:

3 You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.

4 The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.

5 Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.

6 You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.

7 The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven.

8 The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.

9 The Lord will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in obedience to him. 10 Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will fear you. 11 The Lord will grant you abundant prosperity—in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground—in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you.

12 The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. 13 The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. 14 Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them.

39

Cindy 05.08.13 at 2:16 pm

Online Etymology Dictionary:

luck (v.) by 1945, from luck (n.). To luck out “succeed through luck” is American English colloquial, attested by 1946; to luck into (something good) is from 1944. However, lukken was a verb in Middle English (mid-15c.) meaning “to happen, chance;” also, “happen fortunately.” —So Bishop Jackson was correct when saying “luck” presupposes a random universe rather than one in which God moves in the affairs of those who seek His help.

40

Anonymous 08.16.13 at 7:31 am

No such thing as “luck” people. You’re either blessed or you’re not.

41

Katie 08.16.13 at 7:34 am

Sympathy you are correct. I do not believe in “luck” but rather Blessings from God :)

42

Teresa 10.14.13 at 12:45 pm

I just have to say, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland are men and women of God they would never say anything that was not the truth! Maybe if you study the Bible like they did, you would know that luck is a root word of Lucifer! I will always stand by Kenneth and Gloria Copeland and my God!

43

Richard 10.14.13 at 1:18 pm

But he *did* say something that was not the truth. There’s no link between the words ‘luck’ and ‘Lucifer’. Simple as.

44

Tony Buglass 10.17.13 at 4:24 pm

Good grief - is this one still alive? Teresa, the etymology of ‘luck’ was explained in this conversation 4 years ago. Kenneth and Gloria may be very Godly people, but they aren’t infallible. In this case, they are demonstrably wrong, and refusing to accept that is *not* Godly.

45

Richard 10.18.13 at 7:57 am

It is extraordinary how some posts keep getting comments.

46

James M 10.19.13 at 5:24 pm

I know this is not
the original statement about the word lucks orgin, but I am curious why we say there is no luck or chance involved in life? I truly am not trying to be argumentative but want to have a better understanding.
Solomon appears to believe in a type of luck in Ec. 9:11.

“I have seen something else under the sun:
The race is not to the swift, or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.”
Thanks for everyones insight.

47

Richard 10.19.13 at 8:30 pm

I very much agree. Can I point you towards this post I wrote some time ago?

“The biologist knows that the evolution of life is governed by chance, that random chaotic events are the drivers for the differentiation of species, their survival or extinction. They look at such a universe and cannot find in it a place for God. Perversely, some Christians view the world the same way: they are obliged to reject some of science’s most amazing and successful conclusions because their world-view leaves no room for chance or accident.

The mathematician, on the other hand, can gaze out on a universe in which even the outworkings of chaos find themselves being resolved into patterns of complex beauty which recur in all kinds of unexpected places. The physicist can recognize that inherently unpredictable quantum events lie behind all that we see and experience and that this very randomness has its end in the order and regularity which is our everyday experience.

48

James M 10.19.13 at 9:34 pm

Thank you, great article. So if I understand your point our feeble minds see things that happen as chance or luck are simply mathematically complex but can happen. So we are looking at odds or casting lots if you will. A mentor once told me that a coincidence was simply an event where God wanted to remain anonymous. I feel that ties in here as typically a coincidence is mathematically possible but not probable. Thanks again.

49

Emily 10.26.13 at 7:02 pm

This response is for anyone searching for the literal origin of the word luck so you don’t have to sift through religious opinions like I did. Since lucifer was a big topic, http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=lucifer the information there seems to conflict with today’s interpretation of lucifer. To keep it short, lux and lucis can be traced to root *lewk meaning “light”.

To make it long, I was looking to verify something I read stating that mazel tov means “may the stars be in good alignment for you today.” Common internet answers said it essentially meant good luck so I was wondering what they meant by luck. My guess based on what I’ve found, “light” as a noun. I’ve determined that I should not dispute that mazel tov could mean “may the stars be in good alignment for you today.”

With that, my future sons name will be Lewk.

And mazel tov to you all.

50

B Jensen 12.25.13 at 4:39 pm

Thank you, Emily! May God empower you and your son to be a mutual blessing to each other!

51

Anonymous 01.22.14 at 6:42 am

So if “luck” came into existence around 1400, and was derived from another word, with another meaning, why do so many people believe that it is some kind of random force floating around the universe just waiting to fall onto someone to cause physical change either in a good way or a bad way, as if it were truth. It is a lie, and is pure foolishness. Its sounds like something satan would come up with to decieve people. There are two forces at work in all of creation. God’s goodness, and satans evil. Stop believing fairy tails people. John 3:16

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