What are some words and phrases that Shakespeare introduced into the English language?  

Expert Answers
mrshh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

William Shakespeare included clever phrases in many of his plays. Some of those phrases are still commonly used in the English language today. Below you will find a few of them.

- "Break the ice." This phrase is used in The Taming of the Shrew when Tranio (posing as Lucentio, the tutor) suggests to Petruchio that he woo Katherina. He tells Petruchio that if he will "break the ice and do this feat" that he will "achieve the elder, set the younger free." He is referring to the fact that if Petruchio wins the affections of Katherina, he will make it so Bianca, her younger sister, is free to marry.

- "As good luck would have it." This phrase comes from The Merry Wives of Windsor. This phrase is mentioned in a conversation between Falstaff and the man who he thinks is Mr. Brook (but who is really Ford). Falstaff tells him that "as good luck would have it, comes in one Mistress Page; gives intelligence of Ford's approach; and, in her invention and Ford's wife's distraction, they [convey him] into a buck-basket." He is telling "Mr. Brook" the story of how the two wives he is pursuing convinced him to hide inside a basket of dirty laundry.

- "As dead as a doornail." Jack Cade, in a famished and pitiful state, sneaks into the garden of Alexander Iden in Henry VI Part II. Cade is confrontational with Iden, and he states that if he does not "leave [Iden and his men] as dead as a doornail" he prays to God he "may never eat grass more." Jack Cade speaks in a threatening way to Iden, who is at first somewhat sympathetic to him.

There are many other phrases and idioms that originate from Shakespeare. A few more are:

- "Love is blind"

- "Fancy free"

- "Knock knock! Who's there?"

- "Heart of gold"

- "Bated breath"

- "Good riddance"

Shakespeare's writings are both clever and popular. This combination led to phrases of his own creation becoming common in everyday use. Several popular names, such as Jessica and Miranda, were also created by Shakespeare.

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question