Shakespeare Quotes

“Household Words”

Common and Uncommon Words Coined by Shakespeare

POLONIUS: What do you read, my lord?
HAMLET: Words, words, words.
HAMLET Act 2, scene 2, 191-192

It’s always impossible to know who first coined a word-and not much easier to know who first wrote it down. But here’s a partial list of the words for which Shakespeare is the first authority the Oxford English Dictionary could find. Some words predate the first citation in the OED, even in its second edition. In a few cases, Shakespeare was the first to have used the word in at least one of its modern senses; these words are marked with an asterisk (*). All verbs are in the infinitive form-that is, the “to” form (“to belly,” “to overstink,” etc.). Where there might otherwise be confusion over the part of speech, I have spelled it out.

  • * gust (as “a wind-blast”)
  • half-blooded
  • heartsore
  • hedge-pig
  • hell-born
  • hint (the noun)
  • hobnail (the noun)
  • hodge-pudding (“a pudding of various ingredients”)
  • * homely (in the sense of ugly”)
  • honey-tongued
  • hornbook (“alphabet tablet”)
  • hostile
  • hot-blooded
  • howl (the noun)
  • hunchbacked [“bunch-back’d” in earliest edition]
  • hurly (“commotion”)
  • idle-headed
  • ill-tempered
  • ill-used
  • impartial
  • implorator (“solicitor”)
  • import (the noun: “importance,” “significance”)
  • in question (as in “the___ in question”)
  • inaudible
  • inauspicious
  • indirection
  • indistinguishable
  • inducement
  • informal (Shakespeare seems to have meant “unformed” or “irresolute”)
  • inventorially (“in detail”)
  • investment (Shakespeare meant “a piece of clothing”)
  • invitation
  • invulnerable
  • jaded (Shakespeare seems to have meant “contemptible”)
  • juiced (“juicy”)
  • keech (“solidified fat”)
  • kickie-wickie (derogatory term for a wife)
  • kitchen-wench
  • lackluster
  • ladybird
  • lament
  • land-rat
  • laughable
  • leaky
  • leapfrog
  • lewdster
  • loggerhead (Shakespeare meant “blockhead”)
  • lonely (Shakespeare meant “lone”)
  • long-legged
  • love letter
  • lustihood
  • lustrous
  • madcap (as an adjective)
  • madwoman (earlier than OED)
  • majestic
  • malignancy (Shakespeare meant “malign tendency”)
  • manager
  • marketable
  • marriage bed
  • marybud (“bud of a marigold”)
  • mewling (“whining, whimpering”)
  • militarist (Shakespeare meant “soldier”)
  • mimic (the noun)
  • misgiving (the noun: “uneasiness”)
  • mockable (“deserving ridicule”)
  • money’s worth [“money-worth” dates from the fourteenth century]
  • monumental
  • moonbeam
  • mortifying (the adjective)
  • motionless
  • mountaineer (Shakespeare meant “mountain-dweller”)
  • multipotent (“most-mighty”)
  • multitudinous
  • mutineer
  • nayword (“byword”)
  • neglect (the noun)
  • never-ending (earlier than OED)
  • newsmonger
  • nimble-footed
  • noiseless
  • nonregardance (“disregard”)
  • nook-shotten (“full of corners or angles”)
  • obscene (Shakespeare meant “revolting”)
  • ode
  • offenseful (“sinful”)
  • Olympian (Shakespeare meant “Olympic”)
  • on purpose
  • oppugnancy (“antagonism”)
  • outbreak
  • overblown (Shakespeare meant “blown over”)
  • overcredulous
  • overgrowth
  • overview (as a noun: Shakespeare meant “supervision”)
  • pageantry
  • pale-faced
  • passado (a kind of sword-thrust)
  • paternal
  • pauser (“one who hesitates”)
  • pebbled (“pebbly”)
  • pedant (Shakespeare was referring to a schoolmaster)
  • pedantical
  • pendulous (Shakespeare meant “hanging over”)
  • perusal
  • pignut (a sort of tuber)
  • pious
  • please-man (“yes-man” or “parasite”)
  • plumpy (“plump”)
  • posture (Shakespeare seems to have meant something like “position” or “positioning”) [earlier than OED)
  • pouncet-box (“small box of perfumes”)
  • prayerbook (earlier than OED)
  • priceless
  • profitless
  • Promethean
  • protester (Shakespeare meant “one who affirms”)
  • published (Shakespeare meant “commonly recognized”)
  • puh! (an interjection signifying disgust and/or condescension)
  • puppy-dog
  • pushpin (Shakespeare was referring to a children’s game)
  • quarrelsome
  • radiance
  • rascally (earlier than OED)
  • rawboned (“very gaunt”)
  • razorable (“fit to be shaved”)
  • reclusive
  • refractory
  • reinforcement (Shakespeare meant “renewed force”)
  • reliance
  • remorseless
  • reprieve (the noun)
  • restoration (earlier than OED)
  • * restraint (as “reserve”)
  • retirement
  • revokement (“revocation”)
  • revolting (Shakespeare meant “rebellious”) [earlier than OED)
  • ring carrier (“go-between”)
  • ring-time (“time for exchanging rings”)
  • roadway
  • roguery
  • rose-cheeked
  • rose-lipped
  • rug-headed (“shock-headed”)
  • rumination
  • ruttish
  • satisfying (as an adjective)
  • * savage (as “uncivilized”)
  • savagery
  • schoolboy
  • scrimer (“a fencer”)
  • scroyle (“wretch”)
  • scrubbed (Shakespeare meant “stunted”)

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