Words Invented by Shakespeare

Today while browsing the ever so beautiful interwebs, I came across something interesting about Shakespeare. Turns out that our second favourite William (after the one and only William Gates of course) invented over 1700 of the words we use commonly use, by simply turning nouns into verbs, adjectives into verbs, and so forth..

Here is a very small list of words he invented:

  1. Accused
  2. Addiction
  3. Advertising
  4. Amazement
  5. Arouse
  6. Assassination
  7. Bandit
  8. Bedroom
  9. Beached
  10. Blanket
  11. Bump
  12. Cater
  13. Champion
  14. Countless
  15. Epileptic
  16. Fixture
  17. Flawed
  18. Generous
  19. Hint
  20. Lonely
  21. Mimic
  22. Negotiate
  23. Obscene
  24. Premeditated
  25. Rant
  26. Summit
  27. Torture
  28. Varied
  29. Worthless
  30. Zany

Well the list goes on, and you can read more about it here, or phrases he invented here. It is not surprising that he has had so much influence on the English language, as he is arguably the greatest playwright ever. But it is remarkable how he never felt confined to using only ‘true’ lexicon.

It is disappointing that we are taught that there is a word for everything, because it hampers our imagination to develop, to feel, to express, anything which has not been defined before. And sometimes we convince ourselves that if there is no word for it, then it cannot exist.

I hope we all can take an example from Shakespeare, and dare to break the structured guidelines.


  1. Alex Besogonov - June 24, 2007 | Permalink

    A small correction.

    He have not ‘invented’ these words, he borrowed them from another languages. For example, ‘bandit’ comes from Italian ‘bandito’ (to band together). It’s clearly NOT invented by Shakespear.

    The same goes for ‘accused’ (it’s borrowed from Latin ‘acusio’), torture (torture), etc.

  2. Joel Laumans - June 24, 2007 | Permalink

    @Alex Besogonov
    Thanks for the correction, I am by no means a literature expert, but I still find it noteworthy how he never caged himself to common practice

  3. 88bytes - June 24, 2007 | Permalink

    Hmm pretty interesting. Do u think if i make my own words i will get famous????? :P

  4. Joel Laumans - June 24, 2007 | Permalink

    If you make more than 1700, maybe… =)

  5. Michael - June 24, 2007 | Permalink

    Alex, the word bandit si still invented by him, just because the word exists in another language does not mean that it is used in all languages. Shakespeares ability to take words from other languages and adapt them either by alteration i.e. changing the state of the word from verb to noun or adding one word to another i.e. bedroom is a stroke of genius and the proof of that genius is that we use the words he made.

    I would question your idea of what language is, yes they do borrow words but Emglish does not use the ‘borrowed’ word ‘acusio’ rahter it took that root form and altered it to create – accused, accusation, accusor, accusiste. These words are derived from the latin root.

    Moreover, I believe you are assuming that English is a language born out of ancient roots, it is NOT. Hungarian is, Italian is, Greek is, Spanish is, et al. English is not, English has been borrowing, stealing, taking, absorbing and, hell, mangling words for the past 400 years (possibly less). The noted linguist David Crystal has said that for the closest approximation of English as spoken during Shkespears time you’d need to visit Vermont in the USA as they still, yes still, speak in a dialect used by the pilgrim fathers. Also, for most Europeans you could give them a text written 500 years ago and they could still make sense of it, give the same text to an English speaker and it would make little or no sense at all.

    And what really gets my goat up is you thinking that Shakespeare borrowed words that were already in existance at the time… he did not, he INVENTED these words and, guess what, you are now borrowing them off English speakers.

    An interesting little thing I have been working on for the past few weeks (as I live in Hungary) is compiling a list of all the words taken from English and German and used in everyday parlance.. so far I am up to 300 and still counting – Komputer, burger, big mak, pizza, musik, internet, garnish, movi.. etc .

    achhh… Bottom line is that Shakespeare is the ONLY author whose plays and poems require a glossary to explain the meaning of many of the words so that native speakers can understand what he is saying, also many people get upset and confused when his poems and songs don’t rhyme.. THEY DO but the accent has shifted, they rhymed in his time, English has changed.

    OK rant over, peace, It’s just as an English major and TESL/TEFL (which is what I do now) Alexs’ comment is annoying.

    Oh yeah FYI Alex, the first sentence should read: “He HAS not ‘invented’ these….”

  6. Joel Laumans - June 25, 2007 | Permalink

    Thanks for your extensive reply =), and I’m glad you could enlighten us with some of your expertise.
    The project your working on sounds quite interesting, and when I read it I couldn’t help but think of all the words in Dutch ( as I live in Holland ) which are also taken from English… and the first couple words which come to my mind are all relatively quite young, mostly having to do either with technology or culture, such as “fax” “klik (click) “barbecue” etc..

  7. Brent - June 25, 2007 | Permalink

    Yes, it’s correct to say that Shakespeare probably didn’t “invent” any of these words; but it is also correct to say that many of these words were first heard during Shakespeare’s lifetime (not ‘champion’, mind you — it’s been an English word since at least the 12th century.)

    Shakespeare was noteworthy for being among the first to use many of these words in *print*; meaning that he was an audacious user of language, willing to employ words that many of his readers and audiences might never have heard before, simply because he liked the sound of them, or because they were the most apt and accurate ways of expressing his meaning. (And had he not used them, many of them might well have drifted into disuse over time; but because *Shakespeare* used them, they were guaranteed semi-immortality.)

    It’s certainly the case that Shakespeare coined many *phrases* that we still use today, four hundred years later. Here’s just a few that appear for the first time in his works:

    “without rhyme or reason”
    “in a pickle”
    “eaten out of house and home”
    “vanished into thin air”
    “more sinned against than sinning”
    “playing fast and loose”
    “haven’t slept a wink”
    “cold comfort”
    “send me packing”
    “the devil incarnate”
    “sorry sight,”
    “dead as a door-nail”
    “heart of gold”
    “the milk of human kindness”
    “full circle”
    “bated breath”

  8. Ryan - June 25, 2007 | Permalink

    Perhaps it’s worth noting that no true dictionary of the English language existed during Shakespeare’s time. The definitive version since its publication, the Oxford English Dictionary (itself the subject of an engrossing tale), was not initiated until the19th century and not completed until the 20th. Started for lack of a comprehensive English dictionary, the OED in its original form actually attributes the origin of many more words to Shakespeare than really belong to him. The latest from the OED is probably the best source for discovering where Shakespeare gets first mention.

    His inventiveness, then, may have a had bit to do with not having a word readily available in his own mind or in any of his immediately available literature – no thesaurus, no dictionary. Also, one might presume a wordsmith might pick up the evolution of language in a major city by ear, and perchance happen to be the first to put it on paper, having not actually coined the term himself.

    Nevertheless, we do owe much of our language to the enduring nature of his work. Thanks for the article and discussion.

  9. Jamil Ecrire - June 25, 2007 | Permalink

    Believe me, in the southern US there is no lack of made up words. Rednecks, although limited in intellect, tend to be very creative ;-)

  10. Jesse - June 25, 2007 | Permalink

    Along with the fact that Shakespeare had an insane impact on the English Language, people also forget that the man could hardly write a line without swearing.

  11. Colonel Nikolai - June 25, 2007 | Permalink

    From what I understand the English language was evolving at en extremely rapid pace when Shakespeare was writing. A generation of adults would typically be speaking a version of the language their grandparents wouldn’t understand; this had been going on for hundreds of years in the British Isles. English is a great collector of other languages. What’s ironic was that Shakespeare’s fame and brilliance acted as a brake on this evolution; his popularity and genius stopped the process of rapid innovation of the English language that had been going on for centuries. Nothing fails like success.

  12. lennei - June 25, 2007 | Permalink

    i like that he used words from other languages in his own works, it was creative and a wonderful idea to help expand the language. he may not have invented them but hey, alex B, try not to be harsh.

  13. Simon - June 25, 2007 | Permalink

    Michael, if Alex’s comment annoys you as an English major, let me remark that your comment is annoying to a Linguistics major. Incredibly. Also to anyone who likes coherent arguments.

    Anyway, ‘invention’ is more ‘creation’ than ‘appropriation’, and the latter is undoubtedly what Shakespeare did. Oh, how inventive it is to take a French infinitive (‘acuser’, from Latin) which had already become an English verb, and then to inflect it for past tense! Then, by god, to use it as a noun! As though that wasn’t just a capability of the language at the time, and now, anyway (the former inflectional morphology, the latter derivational). A fact that you admit when arguing that this counts as ‘invention’ – absurd. I don’t want to undermine his genius, but he invented many more wonderful phrases than he did words. Lewis Carrol was a genius when it came to inventing words whose meanings were immediately clear to an English speaker without any basis in etymology or otherwise; the Jabberwocky being glorious. Shakespeare simply used words in different ways in much the same way anybody does when confronted with someone who qualifies everything with “-ish”: they respond with “stop ishing, damnit!”. Is that a stroke of genius? No. It’s just what language enables us to do, English with a morphology based around suffixes. Inflecting and deriving words through morphology is what any native speaker does; Shakespeare may have been famous and written it down, or done it more than others, but this means little.

    I fail to see what Crystal has to do with your argument, nor how you can possibly argue (and why, in this circumstance, you think it is helpful to argue) that English is not a language with an ancient root. English has, to be blunt and obvious, more ancient roots than the vast majority of languages. It’s a mash-up of Latin through French, of German’s ancestors, of all sorts of things. My point stands: it is not invention, it is appropriation, and none the somehow morally worse for that.

    I have never met a person who is confused or, dear god in all madness, upset that a Shakespeare poem doesn’t rhyme. Everyone is fully aware, instinctively, that this is older English and so is probably pronounced differently. In my experience people force things to rhyme (get someone to read you the first verse of Blake’s “The Tyger”) rather than complain that it doesn’t.

    I can still, as an English native speaker, comprehend to a large part Chaucer’s Canterbury’s Tales (1400, over six hundred years old) in the original tongue. Though the existence of ‘translations’ may indicate a certain inability of the majority of English speakers to do this, I’d rather assume that they’re lazy. Not that your point was at all relevant to any argument.

    I don’t quite understand your point about the glossary. Simply no. The First Folio didn’t contain a glossary helping native speakers at the time understand, so I’ve no idea what you’re talking about. If you mean in modern terms, I have seen many editions of Ben Johnson plays which provide clarifications for false cognates and the like whose meanings have changed, and of words that have slid into disuse in more modern English. Lots of texts from older English require clarification for a modern speaker. Shakespeare is just so common, and studied by so many children who don’t have a complete grasp of the language when reading a text several centuries old, that it is benefited by it.

    I agree that Shakespeare was a genius, but I think it was more, overwhelmingly, because of his ability to string words into sentences of force and grandeur, rather than simply his ability to use words in different ways when convenient. You’re oddly defensive of the man against charges that mean nothing.

    Take your English major and stop defending the dead and ranting about irrelevant things. And cut a probably non-native speaker – Alex – a little slack with the mad way English inflects some of its verbs. I’d assume the infinitive before the third person singular present, if I didn’t know ‘better’, when speaking in another language.

  14. James - June 25, 2007 | Permalink

    I’m likewise a linguist by training and I also find this piece a bit irritating. What strikes me as wrong is the whole “invented” bit. He most certainly did not invent these words. (besides, is that even the right verb to use?). Perhaps you meant “coined”.

    Further, I disagree with one of the above comments about Old German (and/or Middle German presumably) being readily understood by modern German speakers, but the same not being true of English. I’ve read them both (Old/Middle English + German) and neither one makes sense. LOL :-) More seriously, German changed pretty dramatically around the same time that English did.

  15. Isabelle - June 25, 2007 | Permalink

    Oh! dear
    Some of you should go to English classes.
    Arguing about Shakespeare when you don’t know the difference between your & you’re……sad.

  16. Dr. Georgio - June 25, 2007 | Permalink

    It’s really funny how people can get caught up in the technical details without really concentrating on what really matters. Shakespeare according to this is responsible largely for our current usage of these terms, in the way we use them. He helped to change language. Invented, coined, modified, borrowed then tweaked, whatever you want to call it, shakespeare is responsible for it.

    The most important thing about reading things is comprehending what the person meant, or the spirit of what they were trying to get at. Getting caught up in the details can make one ignorant to the real meaning.

    In light of that, allow me to coin, create, a new word in the galumping spirit:

    Detailnorance (detail orientation that causes ignorance to real meaning)

    and yes please forgive my grammar it is not perfect. Oh no!

  17. bacon - June 25, 2007 | Permalink

    It’s not that difficult to understand considering the English language was still being canonized at the time.

  18. Chris - June 25, 2007 | Permalink

    Georgio. Language is a beautiful and powerful tool. Are you really surprised that in a discussion about language, some people might want to point out that the language used is inexact?

    Would you try to hammer a screw into a piece of wood?

  19. Dr. Georgio - June 25, 2007 | Permalink

    Chris, the purpose of language is to relay meaning.

    Shakespeare was the hand that clayed the beautiful pots that adorn our minds.

    I gladly kiss the hand, not smack it.

  20. Jeremy - June 25, 2007 | Permalink

    While it is unquestionable that Shakespeare had a huge impact on the growth of the English language and its scholarly acceptance, a list such of this giving him full credit for “inventing” these words is dubious.

    That’s what I read, anyway. ;)

  21. elamb - June 25, 2007 | Permalink

    Phrases and words invented by E-40:

    “Captain Save a Hoe” – a man who grants chivalry to a promiscuous woman

    “mummy sized burrito” – a very large joint

    “Pop ya collar” – walk and present yourself with pride; lift your collar up and let if fall

    “Scrilla” – money

    “Fo Sheezy” – For Sure (prior to snoop dog)

    “yayo” – drugs

    “Sohab” – homeboys

    Love it or hate it, he is making up stuff you’ll eventually see in a dictionary because so much of pop culture is picking up on stuff he creates.

  22. brian - June 25, 2007 | Permalink

    When people do not realise the reason for their existence or what they were born for, they scramble to achieve. Achievements is about comparing/judging and to compare or to judge is to acquire transient power. In reality, what humans need to do is to first, judge themselves, not others and from thereon, we’ll realise that existence is not about achievements/relative truths but about Morality/Absolute Truth. Morality is that which innately benefits ALL which is another word for Unity whereas achievements benefit [or damage, in reality] some and is just another word for division.

    Although Shakespeare had been born an Englishman, he is not for the English to “champion their cause” and English was “chosen” as the language to unite people, not to divide through the ignorance and indulgence of the arrogant whose blindness dictate that they can see no further than individualistic or nationalistic achievements. When a human dies, he is not going to remain a particular nationality, race or creed and believing or disbelieving this fact brings nothing to the table other than division. What will make a difference is for those who are interested in Truth, to ascertain their “state of truth” and thereafter, but not before, decide to be a reflection of Truth. Truth [or Absolute Truth] is not an ownership, possession or knowledge issue whereas relative truths is absolutely about ownership, possession and achievements. Including ownership of the departed.

    If possessions and achievements are real, humans won’t need to die for death is Nature’s way of alluding to Infinity not being physical [but meta-physical] and the physical realm, which was created during The Bing Bang, is merely the Journey of Dust resurrecting back to Godhood and this span of Resurrection is also called Evolution. Science and Religion are merely the 2 faces of the same coin and is about achievements through the barking madness of the scientific egoistical idiots whereas religion is about the howling madness of the superegoistical lunatics.

    Truth is not for possessing but for becoming and Shakespeare, or more accurately, The Shakespearean Principle, is about our witnessing aspect and not about our reactionary aspects. How so? Because humans can never learn through [his reaction to] knowledge but through witnessing his own experience of the knowledge. Witnessing/logic is a function of the brain whereas reaction is a function of the 3 human minds, namely, subjective[emotional], objective[physical] and projective[the real ”mental”] and these 3 minds, or our 5 fundamental senses [of relativities], can never approach/probe the brain, which is the realm of the 6th and higher senses [of absoluteness]. The brain never doubts or else we’ll stop breathing/seeing, say, whereas our 3 minds rely on our moment-to-moment relatitivites to exist, including the sequencing of our genes. One reason why we need to sleep such that the brain may balance our minds after a day’s worth of comparing and achieving.

  23. Joel Laumans - June 25, 2007 | Permalink

    Thanks for your eloquent response, if I had to guess, it would seem you are either majoring in existentialism or a character from Waiting for Godot.

  24. billy bob - June 25, 2007 | Permalink

    I’m in the US – around an area where hispanic influx from Cuba and Mexico occurs regularly_ And my interesting twist is something we call their use of Spanglish_

    Example 1
    ENGLISH – back up

    SPANGLISH – hacer un backup OR backupear

    spanish VERSION – hacer un archivo de reserva

    Example 2
    ENGLISH – to chat

    SPANGLISH – chatear

    SPANISH – platicar

    Example 3
    ENGLISH – email
    SPANGLISH – emailiar

    ENGLISH – laptop computer
    SPANGLISH – laptopa

    ENGLISH – nerd
    SPANGLISH – nerdio

  25. Joel Laumans - June 25, 2007 | Permalink

    @billy bob

    Yeah, I’ve lived from 14 years in South America, and Spanglish exists for two large reasons.
    1. The lack of an existing word in Spanish, therefore just taking an English word and making it sound Spanish.
    2. It became a way of ‘showing off’ by proving to other people that you knew English. Although this is very ironic because Spanglish is neither proper English nor Spanish, so it completely fails its purpose, but in a country where less than 1% of the population speak English, no one knows better. (This is obviously more evident in countries with less American influence)

  26. LethologicalReader - June 25, 2007 | Permalink

    I think I’d have to fall down on the side of “appropriation” rather than “invention.” I think that Shakespeare did invent many unique new phrases. However, the individual words he used were, for the most part, derived from other languages and he modified them to English.

    I just put a long post on my blog on this subject: http://lethologicalreader.blogspot.com/2007/06/shakespeares-english.html

  27. Will - June 25, 2007 | Permalink

    Lol @ the linguists and English majors arguing over semantics. Who’d have thought?

  28. Rachel - June 25, 2007 | Permalink

    I found this very interesting. Enough so that I shared it with everyone at ListAfterList.com. If anyone wants to add words to this or make correction, you can do so here. Also if you have anything else worthy of sharing, this seems to be a great place to do it! Check it out: http://www.listafterlist.com/ListAfterListcomListsAbout/tabid/57/ListID/7535/Default.aspx

  29. bfab - June 25, 2007 | Permalink

    thanks for the link. why am i here? can they just digg the original link? why the useless itermediate sht fluff

  30. Nex - June 25, 2007 | Permalink

    Brian, When an Eskimo changes his language it’s got a lot to do with his prior experience in that language. Likewise, Shakespeare was an Englishman, was soaked in Englishness and hence wrote from that vantagepoint. It’s a valuable culture-specific expression among other things.

    You say: “Although Shakespeare had been born an Englishman, he is not for the English to “champion their cause” and English was “chosen” as the language to unite people, not to divide through the ignorance and indulgence of the arrogant whose blindness dictate that they can see no further than individualistic or nationalistic achievements.”

    Nothing wrong with ‘nationalistic achievements’ and nothing wrong with ‘individualistic’ achievements; languages exist for those two activities among others. It’s not a given that individualism and nationalism are in themselves negative. As for looking ‘beyond’ those two, I fail to see where you describe such a condition, discipline, achievement or aim.

    That English was chosen (begrudgingly in many quarters) as a universal lingua franca doesn’t mean it cannot evolve where it is spoken natively, while the less colorful more bureaucratic international form of the language stays relatively static. Of course the way regular folks on the street absorb colloquial English like sponges, that may not be true for long. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that most English evolution will happen iin countries where it’s spoken natively. Already you see enormous ‘va et viens’ between them, with practically nothing coming from Iceland, France, Portugal or Malaysia. That may change too, but not soon.

    Sorry, no Cumbaya today. Nex

  31. marsia sfakianou - June 26, 2007 | Permalink

    Shakespeare’s language has always hidden secrets behind words…

    This is my favorite:

    I love thee
    I love but thee
    with a love
    that shall not die
    till the sun
    grows cold
    and the stars
    grow old…

  32. Moi - June 26, 2007 | Permalink

    Wasn’t Shakespeare really Francis Bacon? He was fluent in five languages by the age of 12, so of course words were coined, borrowed, whatever. I’m fluent only in one language, and I make up words that are both understandable and funny.

  33. Joe Smith - June 26, 2007 | Permalink

    sorry, but the article is amateurish, at best. Every word you’ve listed was in existence at the time, and appears several other places. He didn’t “invent” any of them, really. And, his style was a reflection of current fads and fashions in both common and theatric speech.

    If you disagree, I’d invite you to prove (in any way) that the words didn’t exist. there are numerous sources that say otherwise, with authority.

  34. Kostas - June 26, 2007 | Permalink

    Clearly he has invented none of them.
    For example epileptic comes fro mthe greek word “epilepsia” which is a medical term for a disease.
    Also, these words are to common for Shakespeare’s voc, arent they?

  35. kostas - June 26, 2007 | Permalink

    Epileptic is a Greek Medical Word not invented mate. This article is at least fake

  36. Tim - June 27, 2007 | Permalink


  37. Rey - June 27, 2007 | Permalink

    No. It’s absolutely wrong to say he invented the words. His may be the oldest surviving written cite of any or all of these, but the author of this page simply does not know what he’s talking about.

  38. Mark - June 29, 2007 | Permalink

    I’ve also heard the story that Shakespeare was really Francis Bacon. Big deal. That which we call a Shakespeare by any other name would sound as sweet!

  39. Rik - July 3, 2007 | Permalink

    I’d say, you guys should check out the original Frysian language, which was, before it became influenced by Dutch, one of the most pure forms of ancient English, directly derived from the Rune languages from the tribes in Norway…

  40. Bill Seiberlich - July 11, 2007 | Permalink

    Shakespeare may not have invented all the words listed…it might be that his usages are simply the first citations in printed English. Use is not the same as invention (although he was one of the greatest English wordsmiths of all time…so it’s likely he invented some of the words we now use).

    Also, when I studied Middle Eastern history at Penn State, I thought I had heard that one of the words in the list–assassination–originated in the Arab world, as a corruption of the word “hashish.” The assumption was, I suppose, that hashish users were normally the sort of person you hired to kill someone. But of course, Shakespeare could well have been the first writer to make use of the word.

  41. Mauro - July 12, 2007 | Permalink

    Shakespeare wasn’t alone in boldly using words that had no “official” recognition… in Italian, Dante did much of the same, around 1300.
    And yes, an Italian native speaker does need an *extensive* glossary to make out what Dante’s poems mean.

  42. flo - August 7, 2007 | Permalink

    hi everybody,

    It seems to me that it does not matter much whether WS “invented” or not these words, “invention” if you take it from its latin source means “discovery”. By the use of semantic metalepsis (shift of meaning, permutation of fields of use of the words considered) or by that of metonymy he brought news uses and new connections of meaning, even though he was originally taking words that existed in spoken culture or in another langage. Hence the creation, the dynamic of the text. But the creative power is also in the transmission, I mean in the immediate transmission, his words “speak” to you as soon as you meet them. The genius of his “new” text is the both dynamic and mnemonic power of it, even for French readers (like me) ; for instance, many years ago I heard Ariel’s words (“full fathom five thy father lies / of his bones are corals made /those are pearls that were his eyes / nothing of him that doth fade / but doth suffer a sea change / into something rich and strange”), and they immediately and forever sunk into my ears, although I spoke very little english at the time and I was even too young to really understand The Tempest had I had it under my eyes. When you hear him, your ear “reinvents” something too, you make a discovery and then you can use his clusters in your own langage — like “cast pearls before swine”, for instance, or the use of the word “air”.

    In fact, it seems to me that the poetic expression “sea change” describes the phenomenon perfectly.

  43. glumbeagle - August 13, 2007 | Permalink

    According to Charles and Mary Cowden Clarke in “The Shakespeare Key” (1879), Shakespeare, “with his peculiar royal privilege as king of all poets, has minted several words that deserve to become current in our language. He coined them for his own special use to express his own special meanings in his own special passages.”

    They go on to enumerate many of the particular instances of Shakespeare’s coining new words. The full article can be read here:


  44. kappa - September 24, 2007 | Permalink

    Shakespeare did NOT invent the word Assassin. It’s been used for many hundreds of years and comes from the word Hashish. In India long ago, Hashish was collected by Indian soldiers by running naked through Marijuana fields whilst covered in a certain oil so as to collect the THC crystals in bulk. After a run was completed, the condensed THC would be scraped off the man and processed into hash. These men were known as the Hashassin. It was customary for the soldiers to ingest hash as it would calm them during battle thus effective strategy was not so hard. Eventually, India implemented tactical espionage which was taught to these soldiers. The word assassin developed from this. Shakespeare did NOT invent this word.

  45. Joel Laumans - September 25, 2007 | Permalink

    @KAPPA and everyone else

    Yes.. invented might be the wrong word… but he was the first to coin the terms in the English language. Further discussion?

  46. jimmie moglia - October 1, 2007 | Permalink

    Thank you for your site to which I arrived as I am preparing a presentation (volunteer basis) on “Dante and Shakespeare – The International Power of Poetry”.
    Humble suggestion. It may be of interest to your site visitors the book I wrote, “Your Daily Shakespeare – an Arsenal of Verbal Weapons to Drive your Friends into Action and your Enemies into Despair”. It is a collection of 10,000 plus every day life situations connected to a befitting Shakespearean quote. Site, with examples, description, etc. is
    Best Regards,
    jimmie moglia

  47. Amelia - October 25, 2007 | Permalink

    Bump???? Shakespeare invented this word? Where does it COME from?

  48. Sam - March 26, 2008 | Permalink

    I’ve come upon this post a bit late in its lifetime, but I feel I have something to add (or detract if one is so inclined) to this discussion.

    Simon, James, and Brian all have very valid points in response to Michael’s criticism; even Alex’s initial response held water.

    Michaels, if ever you return to this post, I commend you for your study of English in all it’s facets; indeed, you may have a greater appreciation for English as a secondary language, than I will ever have, it being my primary spoken tongue. However, I think your outrage has been misplaced. As you are an English major and practicing novice linguist, I think you should know more about the language you study (it is possible you are misplacing information in your white-hot rage, but your post is composed so that it is hard to come to that conclusion).

    Firstly, you are an English major… not an “Emglish” major. If you’re going to correct someone else’s typos or grammatical slip-ups, please check your own work before you become a hypocrite.

    Secondly, adapting a word to the English language (I believe the Victorian Humanists and ascertainists call these “inkhorn” terms) is not, by any means, the invention of a new word. It is, at its highest, an adaptation. Alex is correct in his statement that many of Shakespeare’s inventions are, quite literally, mere stolen words, like “bandit.” You are even correct in your statement that English is notorious in its history of stealing from other languages (although, if you knew your English language history, you would know that 400 years is not even close to the length of time it’s been happening; 400yrs places English in the 17th century, at about Shakespeare’s reign on the language, when, in fact, the language’s notoriety runs all the way back to the eighth century, near the invasion of Brittan by the Danes–a span of closer to 1200 years).

    I think you ought to hesitate more in blurting that English does not come from as humble an origin as Greek, Latin, and Hungarian, either. Again, if you were more versed in the ancient history of the language, you may say have a less fiery rage. If you look back towards the origins of West Germanic, the great-grandfather of English, you would see an ancestor that Greek, Spanish, Hungarian, Iranian, Finnish, and even Hindi all have in common: a father tongue: the Proto-Indo-European ancestor. In English’s immediate history, it comes from a melding of three basic languages: Old Norse, Anglo-Saxon, and Celtic (or Old Gaelic). Close to 400 A.D., Latin began a still-lingering campaign in depositing words into our language (through the Roman conquest first, then leading on from there, most recently rearing its head in the Scientific Revolution of the 1800s). After that, around 1200, we see the Franco-Norman conquest and the consequent stealing of over 12,000 commonly used words from its ranks. While Greek and Latin are now dead, Hungarian and Spanish are still alive (though heavily steeped in inflective grammar and usage), proof that English is not that different in its resiliency and determination to flourish.

    Indeed, Shakespeare is an amazing figure when it comes to vocabulary; scholars of his work estimate his personal repertoire at close to 30,000 words, while the average individual today has between 8000 and 12,000 words at one’s disposal–truly an amazing man. Nevertheless, so little is known about his writing process or the actual spoken “street” vocabulary of the time that it is fallible to state, indefinitely, that any of his words were not already in use among the common public. Simon’s allusion to the Jabberwocky is a solid point. Bill Shakes was by no means the only author to contribute en masse to the general vocabulary. Look at his contemporaries: Marlowe, alone, donated a good 80 words, Milton gave us around 20–mostly from Latinate origin, at that, and Chaucer (as Simon, again brings up) gave common English an estimated minimum of 50 words, 30 of which are common usages in American English. So Shakespeare was (as the old adage states) “standing on the shoulders of giants,” and was in no way special because of his contribution for innovation, rather for volume.

    Lastly, the closing passage of Michael’s “rant” (more of a ramble, to me) is completely disturbing to any self-respecting student of the English language:

    “Bottom line is that Shakespeare is the ONLY author whose plays and poems require a glossary to explain the meaning of many of the words so that native speakers can understand what he is saying, also many people get upset and confused when his poems and songs don’t rhyme.. THEY DO but the accent has shifted, they rhymed in his time, English has changed.”

    Simon also addresses this:

    “Lots of texts from older English require clarification for a modern speaker. Shakespeare is just so common, and studied by so many children who don’t have a complete grasp of the language when reading a text several centuries old, that it is benefited by it.”

    I, too, will address it. I admit, I have not received my letters for English yet, as I am still in my third year of study, but I can still see the flaws in this heated jab. As I understand, Piksels is a discussion forum for any one interested in the intricacies of the textual revolution the world finds itself in. On such a note, Michael, I single you out in your callousness for berating any one with a questionable statement. You strike me as a man fit for the Royal English Academy, in all its glory, instructing your less-educated inferiors on the correct way to say “the.” St. Thomas Aquinas, in his essays “On the Nature of Human Beings,” states that we are “fallible beings, corporeal in nature, capable of great evil and great good….” I find this very insightful as a peer of many thousands of others in my field of study; I know a great many things, but I will never, in my lifetime, know all the things my fellows know. Always a student, sometimes a teacher. As are we all. Learn from what is said, be an observer, and lend advice, not law.

    As a last note, if you think that Shakespeare is the only one that requires a glossary, try reading Beowulf, or The Wanderer. Maybe take those with a side of Milton, and a sprinkling of Robert Burns.

  49. cynera - April 6, 2008 | Permalink

    does ne1 know where i can go to see like how exactly he changed the word. like where it flat out says this was a noun and he chaged it into a verb? help would be appreciated i’ve been looking for weeks.

  50. Sam - April 6, 2008 | Permalink


    There are a number of great works devoted, entirely, to the influence Ben had on the world of grammar.

    If you’re looking for something to quote, or just some tidbits for your “quiver of knowledge,” the World Book Encyclopedia has a great, albeit short, section on Shakespeare.

    If you’re looking for something more corporeal, more juicy (i.e. something to sink your academic/philosophic teeth into), there are three books that do a well enough job of this.

    The first is by a well-known syntax expert: Ulrich Busse, and is titled Linguistic Variation in the Shakespeare Corpus. This specific book is about as in-depth as you could possibly want, getting as technicals as the differences between the tenses of the words used by Shakespeare.

    The second book is an, essentially, an instructor on how the contemporary reader/performer should phonetically (or otherwise) sound the words written by the great poet. Pronouncing Shakespeare’s Words: A Guide from A to Zounds, by Dale Coye is a favorite of mine, because, not only, does it go into detail about the pronunciations, but it takes great care to show how the soundings of these words have changed, or been invented. This is probably the book you, specifically, are looking for. I don’t know about translations of it though, I have it in English and am ignorant to the other languages it is supplied in.

    The last book is a staple for study of the English language among the English. The book is by one Melvin Bragg, and is called The Adventures of English. It goes into relative detail about the path of the upcoming language from infancy. Essentially, it is a study of the syntactic and grammatical phenomena that have made English such a resilient language over time. In it, he spends a good chapter, along with numerous asides, on the poet extraordinaire, and examines (not exhaustively) the influence he, alone, had on the language.

    I hope this helps, These three gave me a great passion for the Romantics, and later poets whom William influenced. And, from the looks, you already have the hunger that makes a great, and liberally educated, intellectual.

    Good Luck on your searches.

  51. Susy - April 16, 2008 | Permalink

    I like Shakespeare!!!! :D

  52. gregory - April 20, 2008 | Permalink

    shakespeare is well and truly great
    who else could make up words and a meaning for them

    not me for sure

  53. L Pedigree - May 5, 2008 | Permalink

    Thats cool. Do you know where to find the entire list?

  54. Arif.K.A - May 6, 2008 | Permalink

    Kindly inform me the
    shakespearean usage to indicate ordinal numbers.


  55. Alexis - November 13, 2008 | Permalink

    thanks so much,that was a great, very good info!!!!!!!!! = )

  56. jessica - January 20, 2009 | Permalink

    I am only 10. But I believe that shakespeare has been a great poet and i admire him

  57. jo. - January 23, 2009 | Permalink

    I’m doing an essay on Shakespeare’s major contributions to the English Language, and this link popped up. I love Shakespeare, and I get chills reading his melodic sonnets and plays. But, I don’t think you can truly ‘invent’ a word unless it isn’t in any other language and has an original meaning. It’s very true that the pop culture is throwing in new words every other day, and don’t we catch ourselves using them more often? I credit bravery to the author of this note. You have gotten quite a lot of responses and criticism. I might also add, I am not much older than Jessica. (Which, by the way, ROCKS!) I am glad to see that there are young people such as I that enjoy and appreciate Old English Literature.

    So anyways, even if this article isn’t exactly “facts carved in stone”, I found it very informing and interesting. Thanks!! :)

  58. NO-ONE - February 4, 2009 | Permalink

    I’m doing an essay on Shakespeare’s major contributions to the English Language, and this link popped up. I love Shakespeare, and I get chills reading his melodic sonnets and plays. But, I don’t think you can truly ‘invent’ a word unless it isn’t in any other language and has an original meaning. It’s very true that the pop culture is throwing in new words every other day, and don’t we catch ourselves using them more often? I credit bravery to the author of this note. You have gotten quite a lot of responses and criticism. I might also add, I am not much older than Jessica. (Which, by the way, ROCKS!) I am glad to see that there are young people such as I that enjoy and appreciate Old English Literature.

    So anyways, even if this article isn’t exactly “facts carved in stone”, I found it very informing and interesting. Thanks!! :)

  59. Jonathan Glenn - March 28, 2009 | Permalink

    Yes, the previous post is correct. Many of these words are from contemporary languages. Champion, for instance, is from French.

  60. rozie - May 5, 2009 | Permalink

    whats the Shakespearean word for soon? im in year 7 lol i have it for hamework!

  61. patrick - May 24, 2009 | Permalink

    ok to start off with and i know i am seriously late but do you people seriously think that typing words which people probably never come back to is important as i am doing myself but who cares?

    you people should get a life and do something useful like go on posts that actually last???

  62. Ha - October 22, 2009 | Permalink

    Shakespeare is cool.

  63. Jack - November 5, 2009 | Permalink

    I know I’m chiming in to this post a year or so later, but I was browsing for information about Shakespeare’s invented words and I found this. Let me just say that he did invent these words. He didn’t just borrow a word from a different language and pass it on as his own word. For example, an earlier poster said he took the word ‘accused’ from ‘acusio’, the latin for ‘torture’. He then assumed that Shakespeare didn’t invent ‘accuse’ (even though in English it doesn’t mean torture), and that it came from latin sources. As a teacher of English as a foreign language, this type of thing is known as a ‘false friend’, where a word in a different language looks the same as a word you’re familiar with, but has a completely different meaning. For example, the word ‘Camera’ means ‘Room’ in Italian, which tricks a lot of English speaking tourists. There are loads of others like that in all kinds of different languages. The same applies for Shakespeare’s words. Just because it looks the same as another word doesn’t mean it is any less original. The invention of the word is the meaning behind it, and even if ‘accuse’ and ‘accusio’ look the same, it doesn’t mean they are the same.

  64. alex - December 2, 2009 | Permalink

    hey, if no-one “stole” words from other languages, ENGLISH wouldn’t have been invented!! the entire essence of “inventing” is taking bits and pieces of other things to make something new!!! So if shakespeare took bits and pieces of other languages, or even put together english words that existed, and the words that were formed didn’t exist, HE INVENTED THEM!!!!!>:-(

  65. sophia - January 29, 2010 | Permalink

    Get more words

  66. LUSM - February 6, 2010 | Permalink

    Just give up with the words my brain hurts!!! Is thee and thy shakspears times words!!!

  67. AdmiralCubie - March 11, 2010 | Permalink

    Personally I think you’re all overreacting and seriously, Michael, I personally think you look more like an IDIOT than anything else. Seriously, Alex was just trying to make a point and you go and bash him?

  68. Weeber - March 11, 2010 | Permalink

    Actually, he didn’t invented them, his writings just happen to be the earliest written record of those words (words are used first in speech and then in writings).

  69. Alena - April 7, 2010 | Permalink

    This whole topic is completly rediculous! This world has no care for what the f@#* Shakespear had to inprint into our daily lives! in anyone thinks i’m wrong than feel free to challange me!

  70. pineapple - April 10, 2010 | Permalink

    u people have issues

  71. sk8r - May 4, 2010 | Permalink

    Interesting! Where did you get your resources?

  72. nikky - August 8, 2010 | Permalink

    okay well i read most of these comments and theyre kinda annoying .

    it wasnt the fact the he ‘invented’ these words , they most likely HAD been used in daily conversation and such , he was just the first to use them in writing . and since u cant trace a words existance back to the first person to SAY the word , the best u can do is trace it back to the first person to WRITE the word . and even then , u wouldnt be able to go to every single document ever , so u go to the well known ones . so maybe he wasnt the inventor of the words , but he did kind of .. trademark them , if u will .

  73. Saber-Scorpion - November 11, 2010 | Permalink

    You’re right, Kappa: Shakespeare didn’t invent the word ‘assassin.’ He was, however, the first one on record to use it as a verb. He invented the word “assassinate,” not assassin.

  74. megan - November 24, 2010 | Permalink

    that was easy to learn because make up a game you have to be gay

    ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ah aha aha ahhahahahaha

  75. Me - December 6, 2010 | Permalink

    No one goes on this thing anymore!

  76. Pablo - December 11, 2010 | Permalink

    Shakespeare can suck my dick

  77. Pablo - December 11, 2010 | Permalink

    Shakespheare is a fuckin fag he can suck my dick

  78. justin bieber lover - January 6, 2011 | Permalink

    hi he invented lots of word

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  80. Sir Biggletrum - March 8, 2011 | Permalink

    Ehm.. These words are definitely not invented by Shakespeare. I am a professor at Harvard University and I am giving lectures on Shakespeare since 25 years. So, you can believe me: Shakespeare’s work is a plagiarism! Like Guttenberg he simply copied everything. Believe Me!
    Biggletrum out!

  81. Francesca - May 10, 2011 | Permalink

    I know some phrases by him;
    A laughing stock
    In a pickle
    Mum’s the word
    As dead as a doornail

    I’m starting to like this shakespeare guy . . . XD

  82. Hiscudent Nicholas - July 6, 2011 | Permalink

    Juster reading throuis, I find that createworders, whilen’t purely inventors, hartain the ability to accurately displow their feelings through their creathinking, and their opemind, a skill not everyone possesses.

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  83. Trini heyy - September 29, 2011 | Permalink

    omg thanks for the words its for my homework oh ya florida is HOT!!!!!

  84. Gull nawaz khan - September 10, 2012 | Permalink

    ehm.. These words are definitely invented by Shakespeare. o you might be professor at Harvard University and you might be giving lectures on Shakespeare even for 30 years. So, i can’t believe you: Shakespeare’s work is not plagiarism!.

    you are professor and ur first task is to tell us and explain the meaning of the term. “invent” oh you worry not i tell you so listen with your eyeball.
    term invent, to mean
    ” come up with (an idea, plan, explanation, theory, or principle) after a mental effort”

    without adding you can not invent something. can u ? indeed not,

    example hydrogen + 2 oxygen

    adding the hydrogen in the oxygen they invented water.

    to mean without adding you cannot invent something,

    and shekespear did the same.

    i hope you all have understood including Sir Biggletrum.

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13 Trackbacks

  1. [...] [link][more] [...]

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  5. [...] of the words invented by [...]

  6. [...] Joel Laumans, do blog Piksels, causou alguma polêmica em seu blog ao divulgar uma lista de palavras inglesas supostamente inventadas por Shakespeare. [...]

  7. [...] well I knew that, but here it is again. words by william. [...]

  8. [...] Link [Via Digg] July 13th 2007 Posted to Culture, Art, Cool [...]

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  11. [...] can find more information about Shakespeare’s influence here, here, and [...]

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  13. [...] compilation of many (560, available below), taking them from many sources such as this, this, this, this, this, this, and this. Some say that these words were invented, others use the most conservative [...]

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