Get Up on the Wrong Side of the Bed, to

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To get up on the wrong side of the bed is a very old saying, but it wasn't always used figuratively. It's been around since at least Roman times.1

Meaning of Idiom 'Get Up on the Wrong Side of the Bed'

To get up on the wrong side of the bed is a very old idiomatic expression that means to start the day in a bad mood and to be grumpy all day and easily annoyed, but for no apparent reason.

Usage

This everyday expression is used anytime a person we know seems unexplainably moody, but it is usually uttered in a lighthearted manner. We don't say "he got up on the wrong side of the bed" when we are truly angry over someone's grumpy and rude behavior. Instead it's more a way of saying "he's moody for some reason, so you better give him some space." There are no hard and fast rules, of course, on how this idiom is used.

This idiom is sometimes used as "woke up on the wrong side of the bed," with the same meaning.

Example

"Mrs. Manners gave the class a 50-question pop quiz today and then gave everybody and F! She must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed today."

Origin

The origin of 'get up on the wrong side of the bed' is more literal than metaphorical. The Romans had a superstition about which side of the bed you should get up on. Specifically, that side was the right side. The left side was the sinister side, related to the Devil. In fact, sinister was the Latin word for 'left.' If you weren't paying attention and got up on the left side of the bed instead of the right, you were in for a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. This saying about getting up on the wrong side of the bed passed through all of the Roman influenced world, at first with specific intentions, later evolving into a figurative expression.

This superstition about the left side is related to the superstition about throwing salt over the left shoulder. Salt wards off the Devil, who likes to attack from the left, or sinister side. See more information about salt superstitions. It is also the origin of having a "devil on your left shoulder and an angel on your right."

Sources
1. Jarvie, Gordon. Bloomsbury Dictionary of Idioms. London: & C Black, 2009.

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