Even today, some 400 years after his death, William Shakespeare remains one of the world’s most famous authors. Perhaps no other writer has had their work studied, analyzed, and reinterpreted more than him.
Shakespeare has commonly been credited with inventing hundreds (or thousands) of new words. He was known to draw from a diverse collection of loanwords from foreign languages. Sometimes, he would form compound words from existing English terms. Other times, he would turn nouns into verbs, or creatively apply prefixes like ‘un’.
Today, Shakespeare’s linguistic prowess has taken on almost mythical proportions. However, it should also be noted that recent scholarship has called into question just how many words the Bard of Avon actually invented. Some of the words he was said to have coined may have existed elsewhere in writing or oral tradition prior to his usage of them.
Still, Shakespeare certainly deserves credit for at the very least helping promote so many words we still use today.
Here are 10 commonplace words that were coined or popularized by William Shakespeare.
- Assassination: Macbeth, Act I, Scene VII
“If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly: if the assassination could trammel up the consequence, and catch with his surcease success.” – Macbeth
- Eyeball: The Tempest, Act I, Scene II
“Go make thyself like a nymph o’ the sea: be subject to no sight but thine and mine, invisible to every eyeball else.” – Prospero
- Fashionable: Troilus and Cressida, Act III, Scene III
“For time is like a fashionable host that slightly shakes his parting guest by the hand, and with his arms outstretch’d, as he would fly, grasps in the comer: welcome ever smiles, and farewell goes out sighing.” – Ulysses
- Scuffle: Antony and Cleopatra, Act I, Scene I
“His captain’s heart, which in the scuffles of great fights hath burst the buckles on his breast, reneges all temper, and is become the bellows and the fan to cool a gipsy’s lust.” – Philo
- Swagger: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act III, Scene I
“What hempen home-spuns have we swaggering here, so near the cradle of the fairy queen?” – Puck
- Puking: As You Like It, Act II Scene VII
“At first the infant, mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.” – Jaques
- Unreal: Macbeth, Act III, Scene IV
“Hence, horrible shadow! Unreal mockery, hence!” – Macbeth
- Rant: Hamlet, Act V, Scene I
“Nay, an thou’lt mouth, I’ll rant as well as thou.” – Hamlet
- Frugal: The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act II, Scene I
“I was then frugal of my mirth: Heaven forgive me!” – Mistress Page (Reads)
- Gloomy: King Henry VI, Part I, Act V, Scene IV
“But darkness and the gloomy shade of death environ you, till mischief and despair drive you to break your necks or hang yourselves!” – Joan La Pucelle
Matthew Groner is a Staff Writer for Sporcle. He enjoys foraging for gourmet mushrooms and calculating the odds of the Kansas City Chiefs winning a Super Bowl in his lifetime.