15 Words Invented by Shakespeare

by • April 26, 2014

Guest post from Mignon Fogarty

This week marked the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth. He is not only known as a timeless playwright, but also as a prolific inventor of words. Although modern researchers have found that some words originally attributed to him, such as puke, have earlier sources, there are still many that hold up today as Shakespeare’s creations according to the Oxford English Dictionary:

Bandit

Henry VI, Part 2. 1594

Critic

Love’s Labour Lost. 1598.

Dauntless

Henry VI, Part 3. 1616.

Dwindle

Henry IV, Part 1. 1598.

Elbow (as a verb)

King Lear. 1608.

Green-Eyed (to describe jealousy)

The Merchant of Venice. 1600.

Lackluster

As You Like It. 1616.

Lonely

Coriolanus. 1616.

Skim-milk

Henry IV, Part 1. 1598.

Swagger

Midsummer Night’s Dream. 1600.

Shakespeare must have loved the prefix un- because he created or gave new meaning to more than 300 words that begin with it. Here are just a few:

Unaware

Venus & Adonis. 1593.

Uncomfortable

Romeo & Juliet. 1599

Undress

Taming of the Shrew. 1616.

Unearthly

A Winter’s Tale. 1616

Unreal

Macbeth. 1623

Visit the Grammar Girl site to learn about famous Shakespearean phrases and insults.

Mignon Fogarty, Grammar Girl, Shakespeare, words, language, EnglishAbout the Author

Mignon Fogarty is the founder the Quick and Dirty Tips podcast network and creator of Grammar Girl, which was named one of Writer’s Digest‘s 101 Best Websites for Writers in 2011, 2012, and 2013. Mignon is the author of the New York Times best-seller Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing and six other books on writing. She appeared as a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show and has been featured in the New York Times, Business Week, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, and more. She hates the phrase “grammar nazi” and loves the word “kerfuffle.”

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