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10 random words and phrases you use all the time that were invented by Shakespeare

You’d be surprised.

SHAKESPEARE IS RESPONSIBLE for much of your studying woes during your English leaving cert, as you wrapped your head around his late 16th century English language, that sounded, well it sometimes sounded nothing like English.

However, Shakespeare is credited with inventing a lot of words that are still used today – 1700 to be exact!


But there’s been some debate whether he actually invented that many words, or if the words existed orally but he was the first to write them down. Nonetheless, these are the words and phrases that are still in popular use due to the long-lasting and immense popularity of Shakespeare’s works.

Source: Buena Vista Pictures

That line from 10 Things I Hate About You is clearly not a trademark Shakespeare, but here are xx words and phrases that you definitely use all the time that are:

1. Arch-villain in Timon of Athens, Act V, Scene I

You that way and you this, but two in company; each man apart, all single and alone, yet an arch-villain keeps him company. – Timon

A very useful word that allows you to really distinguish your enemies from your E.N.E.M.I.E.S. They are the ying to your yang, the darkness to your light, the fat to your low-fat. Think Batman and the Joker. Or Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Or Fianna Fáil and keeping the economy stable.

2. Off with his head: Richard III, Act III, Scene IV*

 If? Thou protector of this damnèd strumpet, talk’st thou to me of “ifs”? Thou art a traitor - Off with his head. – Richard III

…and it’s been used as a catchphrase for foul-tempered tyrannical characters ever since.

giphy Source: Disney

*interesting update: apparently the phrase was introduced in a 1700 adaption by Actor.Manager Colley Cibber (yes, that’s a real name and not another funky name for an IPA). The phrase was such a hit with audiences that it was erroneously reprinted within editions of Shakespeare’s plays which contained Richard III. Shout out  to Joseph Curdy for kindly giving us this insider info!

3. 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

What was it called before?!

4. 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

Shakespeare’s version meant ‘to keep up with the times’, which really is the definition of trying to convince yourself that you can pull off teeny-tiny sunglasses without being a supermodel.

Source: Marc Piasecki

5. Green eyed monster: Othello, Act III, Scene III

“O, beware, my lord, of jealousy! It is the green-eyed monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on. – Iago

Green was a colour that was commonly associated with illness, but Shakespeare made the metaphor which meant ‘sick with jealousy’.

6. Good Riddance: Troilus and Cressida, Act II, Scene I

[Thersites exits]“A good riddance.” – Patroclus

Ah, ‘Good Riddance ( I hope you had the time of your life)’ by Greenday: The theme song of teenage emos dramatically parting way with someone.

7. Swagger: Henry V, Act II, Scene IV/A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act III, Scene I

An’t please your majesty, a rascal that swaggered with me last night. – Williams

“A rascal swaggered with me last night”? Wow, has any sentence more perfectly described the creepy guys on the downstairs Coopers’ dancefloor that won’t stop trying to dance with you?


8. Fair Play: The Tempest, Act V, Scene I

Yes, for a score of kingdoms you should wrangle, and I would call it fair play. -Miranda

Prospero’s daughter never would have thought that “fair play” would be used in sports than it is for the negotiation of kingdoms. Or the closest an Irish person will get to receiving a compliment from a very close family member when they do something major like get a degree or score a winning point in a GAA final – ‘fair-play-to-ya-now’. Blink and you’ll miss it, it’s said that quickly!

9. You’ve got to be cruel to be kind: Hamlet, Act III, Scene IV

 So, again, good night. I must be cruel only to be kind. Thus bad begins and worse remains behind. – Hamlet

The annoying phrase of parents everywhere who say they are doing something mean to make you a better person.

10. Love is blind: The Merchant of Venice, Act II, Scene VI

But love is blind, and lovers cannot see the pretty follies that themselves commit, for if they could Cupid himself would blush to see me thus transformed to a boy. – Jessica

A phrase for a seemingly unlikely couple. However, sometimes money and power helps love to turn a blind eye to persistent sexual harassment…!

Source: Getty Images










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