Words that Shakespeare Invented

William Shakespeare is perhaps the most celebrated writer in the English language that the world has ever seen. Everybody knows his name and most people have seen or read at least one of his plays or sonnets. He was prolific, famous during his lifetime and a legend even 500 years after his death.

One of the many legacies that William Shakespeare left were the words and phrases that he invented. Many of these became a part of the English language and continue to be used to this day. In this article we’ll pick out some of the most popular, along with their meanings.

Watchdog: Often used to describe a group, this term can also be used to describe a person that watches over a particular company or industry. It is easy to assume this is a modern word, particularly when you consider the many watchdogs that exist in the modern world, but this was all Shakespeare’s doing.

Assassination: Murder was rife in Shakespeare’s work, and he used this word to describe it at its most foul. Shakespeare liked to kill off politicians, kings and queens, and this is the word he used, which continued to have a profound effect on society for many centuries.

Critic, Critical: Shakespeare, like any writer, had his critics, but they weren’t referred to as such until he created the term.

Frugal: The opposite of generous and giving, someone who is frugal is someone whose wallet may require a sledgehammer to gain access to.

Laughable: Shakespeare loved comedy and whilst plenty of people laughed at his plays, the word “laughable” was not used to refer to them or to the characters in them until he created it.

Premeditated: Something that is premeditated is something that has been thought-out in advance. There were many devious schemes and plots in Shakespeare’s work, and no shortage of premeditated murders. Speaking of which…

Homicide: This is one of the most famous words ever created by Shakespeare, used in more than just a few of his plays.

Obscene: Although he is often seen as a romantic fuddy-duddy by those who see Shakespearean plays as nothing more than unrequited love, comic tragedy and flowery language, there was a lot of obscenity in Shakespeare’s work. However, this term was not invented for him, but by him.

Road: The roads had been laid in England for 1500 years or so prior to Shakespeare’s life, yet the word we use today to refer to them did not exist until Shakespeare created it.

Perusal: The word “peruse” actually gets misused a lot today. Many people seem to think that to “peruse” something is to read it quickly. However, the opposite is true and you would actually be reading it slowly and carefully, taking everything in. A “perusal” on the other hand, is simply the act of reading something in general.

Other words that the Bard has been credited with creating include Reliance, Pious, Monumental, Radiance and Submerge. There are over 1,500 more though, so don’t expect us to list them all.

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