April 23rd is generally considered to be a good day to celebrate the birth of England’s greatest poet and playwright, William Shakespeare. This is partly because there are no records of his birth—although he was baptized on April 26—and partly because he died on April 23, so there is a pleasing, almost poetic symmetry about the way the dates line up.
Even if you never studied his works in college, I bet you might be surprised how well you know Shakespeare! The Bard is responsible for penning hundreds of popular expressions used today. This is a short list—
- love is blind
- pomp and circumstance
- a dish fit for the gods
- rhyme nor reason
- fancy free
- all that glitters is not gold
- eaten me out of house and home
- something is rotten in the state of Denmark
- as dead as a doornail
- such stuff as dreams are made of
- as pure as the driven snow
- fight fire with fire
- brevity is the soul of wit
- milk of human kindness
- it was Greek to me
- discretion is the better part of valour
- jealousy is the green-eyed monster
- wild goose chase
- he will give the devil his due
- that way madness lies
- I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
- pound of flesh
- set your teeth on edge
- good riddance
- as merry as the day is long
- the game is afoot
- star-crossed lovers
- there’s method in my madness
- up in arms
- night owl
- bated breath
- kill with kindness
- I have not slept one wink
- woe is me
- to be or not to be, that is the question
- all corners of the world
- forever and a day
- much ado about nothing
- in a pickle
- fie, foh, and fum, I smell the blood of a British man
Can you name some more? The great master of language didn’t stop at catchy phrases. He also invented new words! Or at least was the first to record these words. He invented over 1700 of our common words by changing nouns into verbs, changing verbs into adjectives, connecting words never before used together, adding prefixes and suffixes, and devising words wholly original.
Auspicious – favorable; promising success; a good omen.
Baseless – without a foundation; not based on fact.
Castigate – to punish harshly.
Clangor – a loud (clanging) sound.
Dexterously – skillful, especially in the use of one’s hands (or also one’s mind).
Dwindle – to get smaller; diminish.
Multitudinous – a lot; a great number.
Sanctimonious – pretending to be very religious or righteous.
Watchdog – a person or group that keeps close watch to discover wrong or illegal activity.
For more, Words Shakespeare Coined is a wonderful online reference.
Now, for your challenge and to honor the Bard, try to insert 5 words or phrases into casual conversation today. Report back on how you did!