Words and Phrases Coined by Shakespeare

These phrases have made my day!  I am thoroughly enjoying saying them out loud to myself.  Yes, I am a self-proclaimed Shakespeare nerd.  Here are some phrases that I would like to start incorporating into my daily conversations: “A dish fit for the gods”, “Fancy-free” (although isn’t it “Foot loose and fancy-free??”), “The game is afoot”, “In a pickle”, “Killing frost”, “Time is out of joint”, “What the dickens”… I can’t stop.  I want to use all of them.  Ooh, wouldn’t it be fun to do a mad-libs type game filling in the blanks with these phrases?  A good shower game idea for lit. people, perhaps?  Anyway, check out the link for other words coined by the great Bill.

  • All our yesterdays (Macbeth)

  • All that glitters is not gold (The Merchant of Venice)

  • All’s well that ends well (title)

  • As good luck would have it (The Merry Wives of Windsor)

  • As merry as the day is long (Much Ado About Nothing / King John)

  • Bated breath (The Merchant of Venice)

  • Bag and baggage (As You Like It / Winter’s Tale)

  • Bear a charmed life (Macbeth)

  • Be-all and the end-all (Macbeth)

  • Beggar all description (Antony and Cleopatra)

  • Better foot before (“best foot forward”) (King John)

  • The better part of valor is discretion (I Henry IV; possibly already a known saying)

  • In a better world than this (As You Like It)

  • Neither a borrower nor a lender be (Hamlet)

  • Brave new world (The Tempest)

  • Break the ice (The Taming of the Shrew)

  • Breathed his last (3 Henry VI)

  • Brevity is the soul of wit (Hamlet)

  • Refuse to budge an inch (Measure for Measure / Taming of the Shrew)

  • Cold comfort (The Taming of the Shrew / King John)

  • Conscience does make cowards of us all (Hamlet)

  • Come what come may (“come what may”) (Macbeth)

  • Comparisons are odorous (Much Ado about Nothing)

  • Crack of doom (Macbeth)

  • Dead as a doornail (2 Henry VI)

  • A dish fit for the gods (Julius Caesar)

  • Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war (Julius Caesar)

  • Dog will have his day (Hamlet; quoted earlier by Erasmus and Queen Elizabeth)

  • Devil incarnate (Titus Andronicus / Henry V)

  • Eaten me out of house and home (2 Henry IV)

  • Elbow room (King John; first attested 1540 according to Merriam-Webster)

  • Farewell to all my greatness (Henry VIII)

  • Faint hearted (I Henry VI)

  • Fancy-free (Midsummer Night’s Dream)

  • Fight till the last gasp (I Henry VI)

  • Flaming youth (Hamlet)

  • Fool’s paradise (Romeo and Juliet)

  • Forever and a day (As You Like It)

  • For goodness’ sake (Henry VIII)

  • Foregone conclusion (Othello)

  • Full circle (King Lear)

  • The game is afoot (I Henry IV)

  • The game is up (Cymbeline)

  • Give the devil his due (I Henry IV)

  • Good riddance (Troilus and Cressida)

  • Jealousy is the green-eyed monster (Othello)

  • It was Greek to me (Julius Caesar)

  • Heart of gold (Henry V)

  • Her infinite variety (Antony and Cleopatra)

  • ‘Tis high time (The Comedy of Errors)

  • Hoist with his own petard (Hamlet)

  • Household words (Henry V)

  • A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse! (Richard III)

  • Ill wind which blows no man to good (2 Henry IV)

  • Improbable fiction (Twelfth Night)

  • In a pickle (The Tempest)

  • In my heart of hearts (Hamlet)

  • In my mind’s eye (Hamlet)

  • Infinite space (Hamlet)

  • Infirm of purpose (Macbeth)

  • In a pickle (The Tempest)

  • In my book of memory (I Henry VI)

  • It is but so-so(As You Like It)

  • It smells to heaven (Hamlet)

  • Itching palm (Julius Caesar)

  • Kill with kindness (Taming of the Shrew)

  • Killing frost (Henry VIII)

  • Knit brow (The Rape of Lucrece)

  • Knock knock! Who’s there? (Macbeth)

  • Laid on with a trowel (As You Like It)

  • Laughing stock (The Merry Wives of Windsor)

  • Laugh yourself into stitches (Twelfth Night)

  • Lean and hungry look (Julius Caesar)

  • Lie low (Much Ado about Nothing)

  • Live long day (Julius Caesar)

  • Love is blind (Merchant of Venice)

  • Men’s evil manners live in brass; their virtues we write in water (Henry VIII)

  • Melted into thin air (The Tempest)

  • Though this be madness, yet there is method in it (“There’s a method to my madness”) (Hamlet)

  • Make a virtue of necessity (The Two Gentlemen of Verona)

  • The Makings of(Henry VIII)

  • Milk of human kindness (Macbeth)

  • Ministering angel (Hamlet)

  • Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows (The Tempest)

  • More honored in the breach than in the observance (Hamlet)

  • More in sorrow than in anger (Hamlet)

  • More sinned against than sinning (King Lear)

  • Much Ado About Nothing (title)

  • Murder most foul (Hamlet)

  • Murder will out (Hamlet)

  • Naked truth (Love’s Labours Lost)

  • Neither rhyme nor reason (As You Like It)

  • Not slept one wink (Cymbeline)

  • Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it (Macbeth)

  • [Obvious] as a nose on a man’s face (The Two Gentlemen of Verona)

  • Once more into the breach (Henry V)

  • One fell swoop (Macbeth)

  • One that loved not wisely but too well (Othello)

  • Time is out of joint (Hamlet)

  • Out of the jaws of death (Twelfth Night)

  • Own flesh and blood (Hamlet)

  • Star-crossed lovers (Romeo and Juliet)

  • Parting is such sweet sorrow (Romeo and Juliet)

  • What’s past is prologue (The Tempest)

  • [What] a piece of work [is man] (Hamlet)

  • Pitched battle (Taming of the Shrew)

  • A plague on both your houses (Romeo and Juliet)

  • Play fast and loose (King John)

  • Pomp and circumstance (Othello)

  • [A poor] thing, but mine own (As You Like It)

  • Pound of flesh (The Merchant of Venice)

  • Primrose path (Hamlet)

  • Quality of mercy is not strained (The Merchant of Venice)

  • Salad days (Antony and Cleopatra)

  • Sea change (The Tempest)

  • Seen better days (As You Like It? Timon of Athens?)

  • Send packing (I Henry IV)

  • How sharper than the serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child (King Lear)

  • Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day (Sonnets)

  • Make short shrift (Richard III)

  • Sick at heart (Hamlet)

  • Snail paced (Troilus and Cressida)

  • Something in the wind (The Comedy of Errors)

  • Something wicked this way comes (Macbeth)

  • A sorry sight (Macbeth)

  • Sound and fury (Macbeth)

  • Spotless reputation (Richard II)

  • Stony hearted (I Henry IV)

  • Such stuff as dreams are made on (The Tempest)

  • Smooth runs the water where the brook is deep (“Still waters run deep”) (2 Henry VI)

  • The short and the long of it (The Merry Wives of Windsor)

  • Sweet are the uses of adversity (As You Like It)

  • Sweets to the sweet (Hamlet)

  • Swift as a shadow (A Midsummer Night’s Dream

  • Tedious as a twice-told tale (King John)

  • Set my teeth on edge (I Henry IV)

  • Tell truth and shame the devil (1 Henry IV)

  • Thereby hangs a tale (Othello; in context, this seems to have been already in use)

  • There’s no such thing (?) (Macbeth)

  • There’s the rub (Hamlet)

  • This mortal coil (Hamlet)

  • To gild refined gold, to pain the lily (“to gild the lily”) (King John)

  • To thine own self be true (Hamlet)

  • Too much of a good thing (As You Like It)

  • Tower of strength (Richard III)

  • Towering passion (Hamlet)

  • Trippingly on the tongue (Hamlet)

  • Truth will out (The Merchant of Venice)

  • Violent delights have violent ends (Romeo and Juliet)

  • Wear my heart upon my sleeve (Othello)

  • What the dickens (The Merry Wives of Windsor)

  • What’s done is done (Macbeth)

  • What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. (Romeo and Juliet)

  • What fools these mortals be (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

  • What the dickens (The Merry Wives of Windsor)

  • Wild-goose chase (Romeo and Juliet)

  • Wish is father to that thought (2 Henry IV)

  • Witching time of night (Hamlet)

  • Working-day world (As You Like It)

  • The world’s my oyster (2 Henry IV)

  • Yeoman’s service (Hamlet)
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2 thoughts on “Words and Phrases Coined by Shakespeare

  1. I might have to find a way to integrate these sayings into my Shakespeare unit. We start tomorrow!

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