William Shakespeare

Words Invented by Shakespeare

In Shakespeare’s lifetime the English language was going through a period of particularly rapid change and growth. The Elizabethans invented thousands of words we still use today, often by taking Latin words and giving them English endings, like “educate,” which is from the Latin word “educatus.” The Oxford English Dictionary lists more than 1,700 words which appear for the first time in Shakespeare’s writing. That doesn’t mean that all 1,700 were invented by Shakespeare: he was just the first person we know of to use them in print. However, there are as many as 400 words which Shakespeare may have invented himself. There are two ways of inventing new words which Shakespeare used more often than most Elizabethan writers. He liked to combine two words to make something new, like “barefaced” or “moonbeam.” He also took common words and used them as different parts of speech. For instance, “torture” already existed as a noun, but Shakespeare was the first person to use it as a verb, “to torture someone”. We still use many of Shakespeare’s words today. Here are some of the most common:

Accommodation
Addiction

Barefaced
Baseless
Bedroom

Chopped
Circumstantial
Coldhearted
Courtship

Dewdrop
Dwindle

Educate
Employer
Epileptic
Excitement
Exposure

Fanged
Fashionable
Flowery
Foulmouthed
Freezing

Go-between
Gossip (as a verb)

Hostile

Impartial
Indistinguishable
Informal
Investment
Invulnerable

Jaded
Juiced

Lackluster
Ladybird
Laughable
Leaky
Lonely

Majestic
Manager
Misgiving
Mountaineer
Moonbeam

Numb (as a verb)

Obscene
Outbreak
Overview

Pebbled
Priceless

Remorseless
Revolting

Satisfying
Schoolboy
Shudder
Stealthy
Stillborn

Torture (as a verb)
Traditional

Unchanging
Unhelpful
Unreal
Useless

Yelping