The impact of William Shakespeare on the English language cannot be understated. Throughout his life, he was responsible for coining thousands of new words and phrases that are still used today. Here, we will take a look at some common English words that simply would not exist without Shakespeare.
These are words that you might use in everyday conversation without even realizing that their roots lie in the bard’s written work.
One of the most commonly used terms in modern speech is “eyeball” – or to look over something with close attention or scrutiny. This word first appeared as a noun in 1599 in Shakespeare’s play Henry V:
“He takes her by the palm; ay, well said, whispereth/She kneels, and then again the King lett fall/His eye-ball on her.”
The word “eventful” also finds its origins in Shakespeare. In his play Twelfth Night, he writes: “Twas a very eventful time” – meaning something that is full of important events or happenings.
Today, we use the term to describe anything filled with unexpected occurrences.
Shakespeare was one of the first writers to use the word “half-blooded” in print. It appears in The Merchant of Venice for the first time as an adjective to describe someone who is half Jewish and half Christian.
Over four hundred years later, we still use this term to describe people of mixed heritage.
The adjective “hot-blooded” is used to describe someone who is passionate and impulsive, particularly in a romantic sense. This expression first appeared in 1597’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost.”
The play features the following lines: “Moth: O, they have liv’d long on the alms-basket of words./I marvel thy master hath not eaten thee for a word; for thou art not so long by the head as honorificabilitudinitatibus (a rather long word)/thou art easier swallowed than a flapdragon.”
Flapdragon being a type of alcoholic treat – this line speaks to Moth’s hot-blooded nature!
The word “fashionable” appeared for the first time in 1598’s Much Ado About Nothing: “A doublet of thought fashion.” Today, when the phrase is used, it refers to something that is currently stylish or popular.
Shakespeare uses “inaudible” for the first time in his play A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “What hempen homespuns have we swaggering here./So near the cradle of the Fairy Queen?/What, a play toward? I’ll be an auditor;/An actor too perhaps, if I see cause.”
Here, he refers to something that cannot be heard or is too quiet to comprehend.
The verb “misquote” first appeared in 1602’s Hamlet: “…Neither a borrower nor lender be/For loan oft loses both itself and friend/And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry”. In this instance, it refers to someone getting a quote wrong – something that we still use the same way today.
At the time, ladybirds were thought to bring good luck and protect from harm – hence why the phrase “God bless you” was often said when one was spotted. The term “ladybird” appears for the first time in 1598’s Love’s Labour’s Lost:
“…O, they have liv’d long on the alms-basket of words. I marvel thy master hath not eaten thee for a word; for thou art not so long by the head as honorificabilitudinitatibus (a rather long word) thou art easier swallowed than a flapdragon.”