William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was not only a prolific writer, he is said to have introduced thousands of words and phrases into the English language. However, it is commonly suggested that Shakespeare might not have invented certain words and phrases, but rather his works are the first time the words were actually written down. The argument by many scholars is that words and phrases attributed to Shakespeare were probably spoken first. This does not discount the fact, however, that Shakespeare was a master of the English language, demonstrating great wit.
Here are some common words that first appeared in Shakespeare’s plays and their meanings:
Auspicious – favorable; promising success; a good omen. A wedding is an example of an auspicious occasion.
Baseless – without a foundation; not based on fact. If you accuse someone of wrongdoing, make sure that you have support to back up your claim and it is not a baseless accusation.
Barefaced – shameless; without concealment or disguise. When someone tells a 'barefaced lie' it is not a very good one and you immediately know it is not true.
Castigate – to punish harshly. Sometimes celebrities and politicians are castigated in the press more harshly than ordinary citizens.
Clangor – a loud (clanging) sound. Ghosts are sometimes said to be followed by the loud clangor of chains.
Dexterously – skillful, especially in the use of one’s hands (or also one’s mind). A good carpenter can dexterously build a bookshelf very easily.
Dwindle – to get smaller; diminish. Often used to describe money. Many people’s savings dwindle after losing a job.
Multitudinous – a lot; a great number. You are in luck if you can say that you have a multitudinous amount of friends.
Sanctimonious – pretending to be very religious or righteous. Sometimes people who judge others harshly are sanctimonious.
Watchdog – a person or group that keeps close watch to discover wrong or illegal activity. A popular watchdog group is PETA, which exposes wrongful actions against animals.
Here are some phrases that Shakespeare is said to have invented, many of which are commonly used today.
If you want to learn more about Shakespeare, here are some great resources:
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