The phrase “lo and behold” is often misspelled as “low and behold,” with an extra “w” at the end of “lo.” But what does this idiom mean? And how can you make sure you spell it correctly? Check out our guide below to find out!
What Does It Mean?
“Lo and behold” is an idiom used to express surprise or wonder. It literally means “look and see!” As such, you would usually use it to tell someone about something surprising. For instance:
Leo opened the safe, but, lo and behold, the money was gone!
Due to this being quite a dramatic, old-fashioned phrase, people also use it sarcastically or ironically when something is entirely unsurprising:
I said he would wear a silly hat, then, lo and behold, he turned up in a fez.
The meaning of “look and see” is the same in each case, though.
The earliest record of this phrase is from an 18th-century letter. However, the words “lo” and “behold” were in use separately long before this.
The Common Error: Low and Behold
People often misspell this phrase as “low and behold”:
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Leo opened the safe, but, low and behold, the money was gone!
This is because “lo” is an unusual word. As a result, if you’ve only heard this phrase spoken, you might assume it uses the more common term “low.”
However, while these words look and sound similar, the correct spelling for this idiom is always “lo and behold.”
How can you avoid errors with this phrase? It helps to know that “lo” is a shortened version of “look,” commonly seen in Middle English texts. And if you remember that “lo” means “look,” and that looking is how you see something, it should be easy to avoid the misspelling above!
Summary: Lo and Behold or Low and Behold?
To sum up what we’ve covered in this post:
This idiom should always be spelled lo and behold.
People use this phrase to express surprise, sometimes ironically.
To help you spell it correctly, remember that “lo” means “look.”