Words we still use from Shakespeare!

This week marks both the death and supposed birth of the greatest writer of the English language, William Shakespeare.  He was born in 1564 and died in 1616 and whilst much about him is sometimes doubted such as his birthday, sexuality or even actual identity; what can’t be questioned is the fact that he gave the world some of the finest works of fictional literature.


First Edition of William Shakespeare

His works remain classics to this day though we are used to hearing his beautiful prose spoken by actors in the very finest Queens English, originally of course they would have been performed by actors speaking a West-Midlands and almost Brummie accent.  For those overseas readers who don’t know what a Birmingham accent sounds like, this is about as far from the accent of Sir Patrick Stewart or Sir Ian McKellen as imaginable and something like having someone from New York speak with a very deep Texan drawl.

Though I won’t go into his various plays, his life or the huge influence he has had on later writers and even musicians in this post, what I’d like to share are some of the dozens and dozens of words and phrases which he invented or at least was the first to write-down that we still use today on a daily basis.

As Shakespeare would say, don’t get in a pickle, this isn’t too much of a good thing and though I got some of this list from this weeks Independent Newspaper, I haven’t eaten them out of house and home.

– “For goodness sake” – Henry VIII

– “Neither here not there” – Othello

– “Arch Villain” – Timon of Athens

– “Mum’s the word” – Henry VI, Part II

– “Eaten out of house and home” – Henry IV, Part II

– “Rant” – Hamlet

– “Hot blooded” – King Lear

– “Knock knock! Who’s there?” – Macbeth

– “All’s well that ends well” – All’s Well That Ends Well

– “With bated breath” – The Merchant of Venice

– “A wild goose chase” – Romeo and Juliet

– “Assassination” – Macbeth

– “Too much of a good thing” – As You Like It

– “A heart of gold” – Henry V

– “Such stuff as dreams are made on” – The Tempest

– “Fashionable” – Troilus and Cressida

“What the dickens” – The Merry Wives of Windsor

– “Puking” – As You Like It

– “New Fangled” – Love’s Labour’s Lost

– “Lie low” – Much Ado About Nothing

“Dead as a doornail” – Henry VI, Part II

– “Not slept one wink” – Cymbeline

– “Foregone conclusion” – Othello

– “The world’s mine oyster” – The Merry Wives of Windsor

– “Obscene” – Love’s Labour’s Lost

– “Swagger” – Henry V

– “Uncomfortable” – Romeo and Juliet

– “Bedazzled” – The Taming of the Shrew

– “In stitches” – Twelfth Night

– “Belongings” – Measure for Measure

– “Addiction” – Othello

– “Eventful” – As You Like It

– “Eyeball” – The Tempest

“Naked truth” – Love’s Labour’s Lost

– “Faint-hearted” – Henry VI, Part I

– “Manager” – A Midsummer Night’s Dream

“Send him packing” – Henry IV

– “Vanish into thin air” – Othello

– “Swagger” – Henry V

– “Own flesh and blood” – Hamlet

– “Truth will out” – The Merchant of Venice

– “Zany” – Love’s Labour’s Lost

– “Inaudible” – Alls Well That Ends Well

“Give the devil his due” – Henry IV, Part I

– “Pageantry” – Pericles – Prince of Tyre

“There’s method in my madness” – Hamlet

– “Salad days” – Antony and Cleopatra

– “Wear your heart on your sleeve” – Othello

– “Spotless reputation” – Richard II

– “Cold Blooded” – King John

– “Full circle” – King Lear

– “There’s the rub” – Hamlet

– “All of a sudden” – The Taming of the Shrew

– “Come what, come may” – Macbeth

To mark the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare, a number of special events will be held both in his home town of Stratford Upon Avon, the U.K. and across the world. I am going there on Thursday so look forward to visiting all things Bard related again.







About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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15 Responses to Words we still use from Shakespeare!

  1. Ankur Mithal says:

    His relevance remains undiminished. Most of his works are such that they do not get restricted to the time they were written in. I have read only a little of his works, but I am a fan.


    • I agree, many of his works are timeless and are as relevant to us today as they were centuries ago.

      I too have read only a very little of his work but I am a fan of his plays and television adaptations.

      I hope you are well Ankur!


  2. merrildsmith says:

    I’ve seen several of these lists this week, but since he invented or popularized so many words, the lists are all a bit different. There are activities and celebrations going on here in the US, too!


    • I know. As soon as I saw it was his anniversary I thought to myself these words would make a great blog but then everyone has done similar from the TV news downwards!

      I hope you are well and find time to visit a Shakespearean attraction this summer too!


      • merrildsmith says:

        Thanks, Stephen. I hope so, too. The Free Library of Philadelphia has events going on all year–some in conjunction with the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre. I hope you enjoy your events, too!


  3. wildninja says:

    I’m actually quite surprised at how many blogs and news outlets have acknowledged the Bard’s birthday. I decided against it myself because it seems that everyone has it covered. So I’m celebrating by reading his works instead. He– whoever he truly was– had such a keen understanding of human psychology.

    If you haven’t read it yet, check out http://www.amazon.com/William-Shakespeares-Star-Wars-Doescher/dp/1594746370. There’s a follow up now too, http://www.amazon.com/William-Shakespeares-Empire-Striketh-Trilogy/dp/1594747156.


  4. Reblogged this on ThePoliticalIdealist.com and commented:
    It’s amazing that one man could contribute so much to the evolution of the English language. It is thought Shakespeare coined hundreds of entirely words- a Renaissance forerunner of the Internet, in that regard?


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