In many ways Shakespeare is the founder of the modern English that we use, so we’ve put together the Shakespeare dictionary below, listing words used in Shakespeare’s plays that are no longer in common usage.

Alack: an expression of dismay, sorrow, regret.

Example from Shakespeare:
‘Alack the day, she’s dead, she’s dead, she’s dead!’ - Lady Capulet on Juliet’s apparent death. (Romeo and Juliet)

 

Cozen : to deceive, trick or cheat.

Example from Shakespeare:
‘I will be hang’d, if some eternal villain,

Some busy and insinuating rogue,

Some cogging, cozening slave, to get some office,

Have not devised this slander; I’ll be hang’d else.’ - Emilia on realizing that Desdemona has been slandered. (Othello)

 

Fie : to express annoyance or disapproval – ‘shame on you!’, ‘rubbish!’ etc.

Example from Shakespeare:
‘ Fetch him off, I pray you; he speaks nothing but madman: fie on him!’ - Olivia when accosted by Malvolio, insinuating that she has sent him a love letter. (Twelfth Night)

 

Huggermugger: a secret act done too quickly, without thinking it through.

Example from Shakespeare:
‘And we have done but greenly in huggermugger to inter him’ - Claudius regretting having buried Polonius in such a hurry in secret. (Hamlet)

 

Prithee: ‘please’, ‘if you don’t mind’

Example from Shakespeare:
‘Ay; prithee, sing.‘ – Orsino to Feste, asking him to sing. (Twelfth Night)

 

Marry: used in several ways _ it can introduce a statement, meaning something like, ‘listen’, or ‘I agree’, or ‘indeed’ or ‘well’. It’s an oath by the Virgin Mary.

Example from Shakespeare:
‘Marry, sir, I would have some confidence with you that decerns you nearly.’ - Dogberry to Leontes, telling him about Don John’s plot. (Much Ado About Nothing)

 

Sirrah: an address used to someone regarded as socially inferior – ‘my good man’, ‘fellow’, ‘hey you!’

Example from Shakespeare:
‘You, sirrah, provide your block and your axe to-morrow four o’clock .’ - The judge telling the executioner to prepare an execution. (Measure for Measure)

 

Sooth: ‘in fact’, ‘to tell you the truth’

Example from Shakespeare:
‘O, fellow, come, the song we had last night.

Mark it, Cesario, it is old and plain;

The spinsters and the knitters in the sun

And the free maids that weave their thread with bones

Do use to chant it: it is silly sooth,

And dallies with the innocence of love,

Like the old age.’ - Duke Orsino ordering Feste to sing. (Twelfth Night)

 

Zounds: an exclamation in the form of an oath – a swearword, abbreviation of ‘God’s wounds!’ There are many modern forms, such as ‘Jesus Christ!’ or ‘God almighty’ and such constructions.

Example from Shakespeare:
‘Zounds, ye fat paunch, an ye call me coward, by the

Lord, I’ll stab thee.’ - Poins to Falstaff. (Henry 1V Part 1)

Have any suggestions of words to add to the Shakespeare dictionary?

7 replies
  1. Rose
    Rose says:

    I love each and every word of Shakespeare he is my inspire my motivate my everything a single word from him changes my attitude

    Reply
  2. pretzie
    pretzie says:

    i have read some DiD YOU KNOW FACTS and accordingly .. “assassination” and the word “bump” was also included from the shakespere’s dictionaire. :-)

    Reply
  3. Amy Marshall
    Amy Marshall says:

    She doth teach the torches to burn bright it seems she hangs upon the cheek of night as a rich jewel in an Ethiops ear- beauty to rich to for use, for earth to dear! So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows as yonder lady o’der her fellows shows the measure done, ill watch her place to stand and, touching hers, make blessed my rude hand. Did my heart love till now! Forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night

    Reply

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