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.

  • scuffle
  • seamy (“seamed”) and seamy side)
  • self-abuse (Shakespeare meant “self-deception”)
  • semblative (“resembling”)
  • shipwrecked (Shakespeare spelled it “ship-wrackt”)
  • shooting star
  • shudder (the noun)
  • silk stocking
  • silliness
  • skim milk [in quartos; “skim’d milk” in the Folio]
  • skimble-skamble (“senseless”)
  • slugabed
  • sneap (“snub”- as a noun and as a verb)
  • soft-hearted
  • spectacled
  • spilth (“something spilled”)
  • spleenful
  • sportive
  • stealthy
  • stillborn
  • successful
  • suffocating (the adjective)
  • superscript (Shakespeare meant “address written on a letter”)
  • superserviceable (“more serviceable than is necessary”)
  • tanling (“someone with a tan”)
  • tardiness
  • time-honored
  • title page (earlier than OED)
  • to arouse
  • to barber
  • to bedabble
  • to bedazzle
  • to behowl
  • to belly (“to swell”)
  • to bemad
  • to bemonster
  • to besmirch
  • to bet
  • to bethump
  • to bewhore
  • to blanket
  • to cake
  • to canopy
  • to castigate
  • * to cater (as “to purvey food”)
  • to champion
  • to channel (Shakespeare meant “to form a channel”)
  • to comply
  • to compromise (Shakespeare meant “to agree”)
  • * to cow (as “to intimidate”)
  • to crank (Shakespeare meant “to reel about”-“to come cranking in” is his coinage)
  • to cudgel
  • to dapple
  • to denote
  • to deracinate
  • to discandy (“melt”)
  • to dishearten
  • to dislocate
  • to dwindle
  • to educate
  • to elbow
  • to enclog (“to hinder”)
  • to enmesh
  • to ensnare
  • to enthrone
  • to film (Shakespeare meant “to film over”)
  • to fishify (“turn into a fish”)
  • to forward (“to advance”)
  • to glutton
  • to gnarl
  • to gossip (Shakespeare meant “to make oneself at home like a gossip-that is, a kindred spirit or fast friend”)
  • to grovel
  • to hand (Shakespeare meant “to handle”)
  • to happy (“to gladden”)
  • to hinge
  • to humor
  • to hurry
  • to impede
  • to inhearse (“load into a hearse”)
  • to inlay
  • to instate (Shakespeare, who spelled it “enstate,” meant “to endow”)
  • to lapse
  • to lower (Shakespeare meant both “to frown, to threaten” and “to sink, to decline”)
  • to misquote
  • to muddy
  • to negotiate
  • to numb (earlier than OED)
  • to offcap (“to doff one’s cap”)
  • to operate
  • to out-Herod (“to outdo Herod in bluster”)
  • to out-talk
  • to out-villain
  • to outcrafty (“to excel in craft”: “outwit”)
  • to outdare
  • to outfrown
  • to outgrow
  • to outscold
  • to outsell (Shakespeare meant “to exceed in value”)
  • to outstare
  • to outswear
  • to outsweeten (“to be sweeter than”)
  • to outweigh
  • to over-red (“to redden over”)
  • to overbulk (“to surpass in bulk”)
  • to overpay
  • to overpower
  • to overrate
  • to overstink (“to stink more than”)
  • to palate (Shakespeare meant “to relish”)
  • to pander
  • to perplex
  • to petition
  • to puke
  • to rant
  • to reverb (“to re-echo”)
  • to reword (Shakespeare meant “re-echo” and “repeat”)
  • to rival (Shakespeare meant “to compete”)
  • to secure (Shakespeare meant “obtain security”)
  • to sire
  • to sneak
  • to squabble
  • to subcontract (Shakespeare meant “to remarry”)
  • to sully
  • to supervise (Shakespeare meant “to peruse”)
  • to swagger
  • to torture
  • to unbosom
  • to uncurl
  • to undervalue (Shakespeare meant “to judge as of lesser value”)
  • to undress
  • to unfool
  • to unhand (as in the phrase “unhand me!”)
  • to unhappy
  • to unmuzzle
  • to unsex
  • to widen (Shakespeare meant “to open wide”)
  • tortive (“twisting”)
  • traditional (Shakespeare meant “tradition-bound”)
  • tranquil
  • transcendence
  • trippingly
  • unaccommodated
  • unappeased
  • unchanging
  • unclaimed
  • * uncomfortable (in the sense “disquieting”)
  • unearthly
  • uneducated
  • unfrequented
  • ungoverned

Showing 301-450 of 491