Month of Shakespeare: Word Inventions

Image result for shakespeare

There’s a lot of cool things about Shakespeare, but one of coolest and most fascinating (well at least in my opinion) are his word inventions.

A few weeks ago I did a post about words invented in or inspired by literature, but the one author that really impacted the English language is Shakespeare.

While I knew he created some words, I hadn’t realized the extent of them. Even the most common words we use today were invented by him.

Blanket, for instance, is due to the genius of Shakespeare. Blanket. Yes, this simple almost every-day word was created in the mind of Shakespeare for King Lear. And guess what, even the over-used word of today, swag, got its origin from Shakespeare with his word “swagger” for A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

“What hempen home-spuns have we swaggering here.”

But that’s not all! Shakespeare created even more words! 1,700 to be exact.

I mean think about it, could you come up with 1,700 new words?

This doesn’t mean smashing down on your keyboard and whatever appears on the screen is now a word (although that would be kind of an interesting thing to do…) He was able to come up with a word and then use it logically in a sentence that created meaning and understanding. It must have impacted his audience and the people of that time greatly as these were new and probably strange words, and yet they started to use them.

 It would take too much time to list and talk about every word Shakespeare created (or popularized) but here are few.

Dwindle (King Henry IV) 

“Bardolph, am I not fallen away vilely since this last action? Do I not bale? Do I not dwindle?”

Zany (Love’s Labour’s Lost)

“Some carry-tale, some please-man, some slight zany.”

This was actually inspired by a word from the commedia dell’art, which was a crazy or goofy character. 

Champion (Macbeth)

“And champion me to the utterance! Who’s there!

The original idea of this word was “to fight”, but eventually that idea led to our modern version of champion, or someone who is victorious. 

Moonbeam (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

“To fan the moonbeams from his sleeping eyes.”

Critic (Love Labour’s Lost)

“A critic, nay, a night-watch constable.”

More than likely inspired by a Latin term. 

Buzzer (Hamlet)

“And wants not buzzers to infect his ear.”

I found this to be really interesting. The first thought that comes to mind when someone says this is a device that makes a loud buzzing sound. But the original meaning was meant to be a way to say “gossiper”. 


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