‘Swagger’ and 10 other Modern day Words Invented By Shakespeare

by Aadarsh Jain

‘Swagger’ and 10 other Modern day Words Invented By Shakespeare

May 13, 2021

Shakespeare is credited with coining phrases such as puppy dog and lacklustre. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is a well-known dictionary for documenting word origins. Here is the list of ten modern day words that were invented by the OG Shakespeare.

Manager: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Play: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, ACT V, Scene I

“Where is our usual manager of mirth? What revels are in hand? Is there no play to ease the anguish of a torturing hour?” – King Theseus

Workday complaining in the office break room will not be the same without Shakespeare.

Inaudible: All’s Well That Ends Well

Play: All’s well that ends well, ACT V, Scene III:

“Let’s take the instant by the forward top; for we are old, and on our quick’st decrees the inaudible and noiseless foot of Time steals ere we can effect them.” – King of France

One of a variety of words (invulnerable, indistinguishable, inauspicious, among others) that Shakespeare coined solely for the purpose of inserting a negative in-prefix in which one did not previously exist.

Alls Well That Ends Well Shakespeare

Addiction: Othello

In his Play Othello’s ACT Ii, Scene II, Shakespeare has written :

“It is Othello’s delight, our glorious and brave general, that, upon those tidings now arriving, importing the sheer perdition of the Turkish fleet, every man put himself in triumph; some to dance, some to build bonfires, each man to whatever sport and revels his addiction takes him.” – Herald


Arch-villain: Timon of Athens

Play: Timon of Athens, ACT V, Scene I:

“You this way and you that way, just two in a company; each man alone and alone, but an arch-villain holds him company.” – Timon

Shakespeare was able to differentiate the worst of the worst by adding the prefix arch-, which means more severe than those of the same kind.

Brooklyn Museum The Fugitive Study for Timon of Athens Thomas Couture

Assassination: Macbeth

Play: Macbeth, ACT I, Scene VII:

“If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly: if the assassination could trammel up the consequence, and catch with his surcease success.” – Macbeth

Despite the fact that the word “assassin” had been used before the Scottish play, it seems fitting that the play added yet another term for horrific murder.

Swagger: Henry V & A Midsummer Night 's Dream

Plays: Henry V, ACT II, Scene IV & A Midsummer Night’s Dream ACT III, Scene I

“An’t please your majesty, a rascal that swaggered with me last night.” – Williams

“What hempen home-spuns have we swaggering here, so near the cradle of the fairy queen?” – Puck

Shakespeare is responsible for the “Swag” of these young rappers.

1200px Oberon Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing. William Blake. c.1786

Gossip: All's Well That Ends Well

Shakespeare is the first author to use the word gossip to mean “to gossip.” Shakespeare did, in fact, snoop around. There are two approaches. He used “gossip” as a transitive verb in “All’s Well That Ends Well.”

“with a world of pretty, fond, adoptious christendoms, that blinking Cupid gossips

Uncomfortable: Romeo and Juliet

Play: Romeo and Juliet, ACT IV, Scene V

“Despised, distressed, hated, martyr’d, kill’d! Uncomfortable time, why camest thou now to murder, murder our solemnity?” – Capulet

Un- was another prefix Shakespeare freely applied to phrases. In Romeo and Juliet, a tragedy in which a father grieves his daughter’s death, the word “uncomfortable” seems to have emerged with a much more severe meaning than we use it today.

Fashionable: Troilus and Cressida

Play: Troilus and Cressida, ACT II, Scene III

“For time is like a fashionable host that slightly shakes his parting guest by the hand, and with his arms outstretch’d, as he would fly, grasps in the comer: welcome ever smiles, and farewell goes out sighing.” – Ulysses

And with just 11 letters, debate over wearing clothes, doing things, and going to places that are considered stylish or acceptable began

Troilus and Cressida engraving painting L Schiavonelli 1795 1

Cold-blooded: King John

Play: King John, ACT III, Scene I

“Thou cold-blooded slave, hast thou not spoke like thunder on my side, been sworn my soldier, bidding me depend upon thy stars, thy fortune and thy strength, and dost thou now fall over to my fores?” – Constance

Beyond its actual sense, this 17th-century play developed a metaphorical meaning for the word, which is still more often used to describe serial killers and vampires.


Of course, just because these words first appeared in Shakespeare’s texts doesn’t rule out the chance that they were still in use in the oral history before he recorded them.


Recommended for you

Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More