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Shakespearean Invention: The Bard Coined 2,000 Words And Phrases Within The English Language

THE INVENTION OF LANGUAGE: According to the Oxford English Dictionary, there are approximately 2,000 words and phrases that William Shakespeare invented. Amongst the Shakespearean terms he coined are phrases such as 'flesh and blood' and 'cruel to be kind'.

*NEW WORDS AND PHRASES THAT SHAKESPEARE INVENTED, ACCORDING TO GOOGLE SEARCH

2,000

The number of words and phrases invented by playwright William Shakespeare.

3,000

The number of people worldwide who Google the phrase, “Words Shakespeare invented” each month.

4,000

The number of people worldwide who Google the phrase, “Shakespeare words” each month.

*All figures for “New Words And Phrases That Shakespeare Invented, According to Google Search”, supplied by Google. Stats include global totals for laptop and desktop computers and mobile devices.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE DID MORE than any other playwright to further the cause of the English language,
inventing 2,000 new words and phrases spread throughout his 37 plays. By Ben Arogundade.

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IN WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S TIME English was a fluid, rapidly evolving language. The rules of grammar were not fixed, and words and phrases were appropriated from a myriad of other languages, due mainly to factors such as wars, immigration and colonisation. Shakespeare did more than any other writer to introduce and standardise new words and phrases into the English language. According to the Oxford English Dictionary there are approximately 2,000 invented Shakespearean terms that have been popularised through his 37 plays. Amongst them he coined words such as “cheap”, “fashionable”, “go-between”, “embrace”, “lustrous”, “vulnerable”, “auspicious” and “well-bred”.

Such is the extent of perceptions of William Shakespeare’s linguistic influence that he is often credited with words and phrases he did not actually invent. Michael Macrone, in Brush Up Your Shakespeare, points out a number of phrases made popular by Shakespeare, and which have a Shakespearean feel, but that in fact appear first in earlier writings. Amongst them are phrases such as “To knit one's brow”, “Cold comfort”, “To play fast and loose”, “Till the last gasp”, “A laughing stock”, “Fool's paradise”, “In a pickle”, “Out of the question”, “The long and the short of it”, “It's high time” and “The naked truth”.

Here is a selection of the phrases Shakespeare did invent, and the plays they featured in:

Othello
A foregone conclusion.
Green-eyed monster.
I will wear my heart upon my sleeve.
Neither here nor there.
Vanish into thin air.
Chaos is come again.
Pomp and circumstance.

Macbeth
Knock, knock! Who’s there?
One fell swoop.
As pure as the driven snow.
Milk of human kindness.
The be-all and the end-all.
Double double toil and trouble.
Screw your courage to the sticking place.
Something wicked this way comes.
A sorry sight.
Vaulting ambition.
What’s done is done.

The Merry Wives of Windsor
As good luck would have it.
This is the short and the long of it.
What the dickens.
The world’s mine oyster.

Hamlet
Flesh and blood.
In my heart of hearts.
Method in the madness.
Brevity is the soul of wit.
Cruel to be kind.
Hold a mirror up to nature.
The lady doth protest too much.
In my mind’s eye.
More in sorrow than in anger.
What a piece of work is a man.
To be or not to be.
To thine own self be true.
Alas, Poor Yorick.

The Merchant of Venice
In the twinkling of an eye.
Love is blind.
Bated breath.
A blinking idiot.
A pound of flesh.

Julius Caesar
The dogs of war.
A dish fit for the gods.
Beware the Ides of March.
Masters of their fates.

Troilus and Cressida
Good riddance.

As You Like It
All the world’s a stage.
We have seen better days.
Laid on with a trowel.
Too much of a good thing.

Henry IV
He hath eaten me out of house and home.

The Tempest
Strange bedfellows.
Such stuff as dreams are made on.

King John
Fair play.

All's well that ends well
All's well that ends well.

A Midsummer Night's Dream
The course of true love never did run smooth.
Lord, what fools these mortals be.

The Taming of the Shrew
More fool you.
Budge an inch.

As You Like It
For ever and a day.

A Comedy of Errors
High time.

Much Ado About Nothing
Lie low.

The Winter's Tale
As pure as the driven snow.

Twelfth Night
An improbable fiction.
Hob nob.
Laugh oneself into stitches.
If music be the food of love, play on.

Richard III
A tower of strength.
A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!
Short shrift.
The winter of our discontent.

Henry V, Part 2
Eaten out of house and home.

Henry VI, Part 2
Mum's the word.

Romeo and Juliet
Fortune’s fool.
What light through yonder window breaks?
A pair of star-crossed lovers.
Parting is such sweet sorrow.
Wild-goose chase.

King Lear
Full circle.

Antony and Cleopatra
Salad days.

The SHAKESPEARE MASHUP by Ben Arogundade is out now.

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THE CULTURE OF SHAKESPEARE

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