Words and Phrases Coined by Shakespeare

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For many English-speakers, the following phrases are familiar enough to be considered common expressions, proverbs, and/or clichés. All of them originated with or were popularized by Shakespeare.

  • All our yesterdays (Macbeth)
  • All that glitters is not gold (The Merchant of Venice)(“glisters”)
  • 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)

  • Catch a cold (Cymbeline; claimed but seems unlikely, seems to refer to bad weather)
  • 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)
  • 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 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)
  • 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 paint 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 (Merry Wives of Windsor)
  • Yeoman’s service (Hamlet)
    Source – pathguy.com
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