Shakespeare, the greatest playwright in the history of English literature is known as the ultimate genius in using language. How he used ideas to convey the most complex human emotions and traits is another thing. Apart from that, his use of language to convey those ideas earns him those extra credits that make him the greatest. The genius of Shakespeare lies not only in his dramatization and portrayal of complex characters but also in how he uses unique words to depict characters like Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear, only to mention a few.
Just imagine the influence Shakespeare has on our lives that the words he invented are still in daily usage after four centuries. From ‘wild goose chase’ to ‘all is well that ends well’, his phrases are popular even today more than ever. You may be using these words in your research paper without having an idea of where they come from. Professional experts at various academic writing services UK companies use them to make dissertations impactful. This is the power of Shakespeare in the modern world.
Shakespeare added more than 1700 words to the English language. At his times, English was not a fully developed language as it is today. It was still in its evolving phases and new words were gradually sprouting from Latin and Greek. Although the number ‘1700’ is a matter of constant debate among the researchers, it is perhaps the best guess we can make.
The number is derived by researches based on the Oxford English Dictionary. The dictionary not only states the definition and origin of the words but also tells us when it was first used in the English language. According to that, Shakespeare gets the credit of documenting more than 1700 words for the first time in written English. We do not find these words in any document prior to Shakespeare’s. However, this might mean that Shakespeare actually did not invent but documented the already spoken words in the initial evolutionary phase of the language.
How Do You Invent Words?
Inventing new words is not a common phenomenon. In fact, every spoken language is so dynamic that every now and then a few words enter into its domain. This is how new languages are formed naturally and older ones expand as well. Besides, many words are adopted from other languages by making minor changes and gradually they become a perpetual part of the borrowing language.
Below is an example of how Lewis Carrol invented entirely new words out of nothing to convey the sound of his poem:
`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
While these words are entirely new, Shakespeare did not make up words like this in his plays. He used various techniques different from this to create new words. Here is what he did:
- Addition of prefixes
- Addition of suffixes
- Converting verbs into nouns
- Converting verbs into adjectives
- Joining two different words to make a new one
While Caroll’s words are entirely made up without any sense apparently, Shakespeare’s acquired origins from the existing words and turned them into something new. Hence, Caroll’s words probably cannot enter daily use language, contrary to those of Shakespeare’s.
The Need for New Words?
During Shakespeare’s time, the English language was yet to become a full-fledged language with enough words. At that time, it only contained around 50,000 words, which wasn’t enough for Shakespeare’s genius. Therefore, he needed words that could best describe the scenes, the inner conflicts of his characters and the matters at play in his plots. In order to meet this requirement, he came up with words like bandit, lonely and dauntless to express the best possible meanings.
How Did Shakespeare Do This?
Shakespeare used the below methods to invent new words:
Taking Words From Other Languages:
In his inventions, the large vocabulary of the playwright performed the vital part. This is because he used words from other languages and converted them into verbs and nouns in the English language. For instance:
His heart fracted and corroborate.
(Henry V, Act 2, Scene 1)
Fractus is a Latin word that means “broken”. Shakespeare takes the word and replaces “us” with “ed” to convey his thought appropriately and we get a new word as well.
Conjoining Two Different Words:
In the below line from Henry V, see what Shakespeare does:
That, face to face and royal eye to eye.
You have congreeted.
(Henry V, Act 5, Scene 2)
See that “greet” and “con” are two words. “con” is a prefix that means with, whereas greet means to acknowledge someone or to receive them. In the English language, the words were conjoined for the first time by the great author to come up with the word “congreeted”.
Converting Nouns into Verbs:
And what so poor a man as Hamlet is
May do, to express his love and friending to you
(Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5)
The word friending might be common among those who use Facebook nowadays. However, Mark Zuckerburg is definitely not the inventor of this word being a verb. Shakespeare actually took the noun and added the suffix “ing” to turn it into a verb.
List of Words that Shakespeare Invented:
Given below is a list of words that Shakespeare is reported to have invented:
Apart from these common words, Shakespeare invented phrases that are worth reading and are popular to the date as well. Here are some of those:
Knock, Knock! Who’s there?
Wear your hear on your sleeve
What’s done is done
The game is up
Green eyed monster
Fair play / Foul play
The world is my oyster
Love is blind
A piece of work
For goodness’ sake.
These are a few of those masterpieces created by the world’s greatest poet and dramatist. Now, you can look at your recent paper which you have written or have just received from an academic writing services UK firm, and see how many Shakespearean words are there.