Understanding the Idiom: "star-crossed" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: English
Etymology: From star +‎ crossed. Coined by William Shakespeare in 1597 in Romeo and Juliet, see quotations.

The Meaning of “Star-Crossed”

The term “star-crossed” refers to individuals who are destined for misfortune or bad luck due to the alignment of the stars at their birth. In modern usage, it often describes lovers who face insurmountable obstacles that prevent them from being together.

The Origin of “Star-Crossed”

The concept of fate being determined by celestial bodies dates back thousands of years in various cultures. The ancient Greeks believed that each person’s destiny was written in the stars, while medieval astrologers believed that planetary alignments could influence human behavior and events on Earth.

William Shakespeare popularized the phrase in his play Romeo and Juliet, where he described the titular characters as “star-crossed lovers”. Their tragic romance was doomed from the start due to their feuding families and societal expectations.

Origins and Historical Context of the Idiom “star-crossed”

The phrase “star-crossed” is an idiom that has been used for centuries to describe a situation where two people are destined to be kept apart by fate or circumstances beyond their control. The origins of this idiom can be traced back to ancient beliefs about astrology and the influence of the stars on human affairs.

In medieval times, it was believed that the position of the stars at the time of a person’s birth could determine their fate in life. This belief was known as astrology, and it played a significant role in shaping people’s understanding of themselves and their place in the world.

The concept of being “star-crossed” comes from Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, which tells the tragic story of two young lovers who are kept apart by their feuding families. In this play, Romeo describes himself and Juliet as “a pair of star-crossed lovers,” suggesting that they are doomed to suffer because their love is fated to end in tragedy.

Over time, this phrase has come to be used more broadly to describe any situation where two people seem destined to be kept apart by forces beyond their control. Whether it is due to social status, family conflicts, or other external factors, being “star-crossed” implies a sense of inevitability about one’s fate.

Usage and Variations of the Idiom “star-crossed”

The idiom “star-crossed” has been used in various contexts throughout history. It is often associated with Shakespeare’s tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, where the two lovers are described as being star-crossed due to their unfortunate fate. However, this idiom has evolved over time and is now used in different ways to describe situations that involve bad luck or misfortune.

One common usage of “star-crossed” is to describe a couple whose relationship is doomed from the start due to external factors such as societal norms or family conflicts. Another variation of this idiom refers to individuals who seem to have a string of bad luck in their personal or professional lives.

In addition, “star-crossed” can also be used more broadly to describe any situation where fate seems to be working against someone. For example, a business venture that fails despite all efforts could be considered star-crossed.

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Idiom “star-crossed”


There are several synonyms that can be used to convey a similar meaning as “star-crossed”. One such synonym is “ill-fated”, which suggests a sense of destiny or inevitability leading to unfortunate circumstances. Another option is “cursed”, which implies a supernatural force causing misfortune. A third possibility is “doomed”, which emphasizes an unavoidable fate.


In contrast to the negative connotations of “star-crossed”, there are also antonyms that suggest more positive outcomes. For example, one could use the term “lucky” or “fortunate” to describe a couple who seem destined for happiness rather than tragedy. Similarly, one might say they are “blessed” with good fortune in their love life.

Cultural Insights:

The origin of the phrase “star-crossed” comes from Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, where it refers to two lovers whose fate is determined by the alignment of the stars at their birth. This idea was popular in Renaissance astrology and has since become associated with ideas of destiny and predestination.

In modern usage, however, the phrase has taken on broader connotations beyond just romantic relationships. It can refer to any situation where external forces seem to conspire against success or happiness.

Practical Exercises for the Idiom “star-crossed”

Exercise 1: Using “Star-Crossed” in Context

The first exercise involves using the idiom “star-crossed” in context. Start by reading a short story or article that contains the phrase. Then, write down your interpretation of what it means based on the context. Next, try using it in a sentence of your own that demonstrates its meaning. Repeat this exercise with different examples until you feel comfortable using “star-crossed” correctly.

Exercise 2: Identifying Star-Crossed Situations

The second exercise is all about identifying situations that could be described as “star-crossed.” Make a list of scenarios where things seem destined to go wrong or are plagued by bad luck from the start. For each scenario, explain why it fits the definition of being star-crossed and how you might use this idiom to describe it.

  • A couple who fall deeply in love but face insurmountable obstacles preventing them from being together.
  • A business venture that fails despite careful planning and hard work due to unforeseen circumstances.
  • An athlete who trains tirelessly but suffers an injury right before an important competition.

By practicing these exercises regularly, you’ll become more confident in your ability to understand and use the idiom “star-crossed.” Remember, practice makes perfect!

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Idiom “star-crossed”

When using the idiom “star-crossed,” it is important to understand its meaning and usage in context. However, even with a good understanding of the phrase, there are common mistakes that people make when using it.

Mistake #1: Using it as a Synonym for “Unlucky”

The term “star-crossed” does not simply mean unlucky or unfortunate. It specifically refers to someone whose fate has been determined by the stars or celestial bodies, often resulting in tragic consequences. Therefore, using this phrase as a synonym for unlucky can be misleading and inaccurate.

Mistake #2: Overusing the Phrase

While “star-crossed” is a powerful and evocative phrase, overusing it can dilute its impact and come across as cliché. It is important to use this idiom judiciously and only when appropriate.

  • Avoid using “star-crossed” in every sentence or paragraph of your writing
  • Consider alternative phrases or words that convey similar meanings without relying on this idiom
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