In all of his work – the plays, the sonnets and the narrative poems – Shakespeare uses 17,677 words. Of those words, Shakespeare ‘invented’ an incredible 1,700 of them! We say invented, though in reality  many of these 1,700 words would likley have been in common parlance, just not written down prior to Shakespeare. Historian Jonathan Hope also points out that Victorian scholars who read texts for the first edition of the Oxford English Dicitonary read Shakespeare’s texts more thoroughly than most, and cited him more often, meaning Shakespeare is often credited with the first use of words which can be found in other writers.

That said, it is Shakespeare who is credited with bringing into usage the below list of words that we still use in our daily speech – some of them frequently.

accommodation

aerial

amazement

apostrophe

assassination

auspicious

baseless

bloody

bump

castigate

changeful

clangor

control (noun)

countless

courtship

critic

critical

dexterously

dishearten

dislocate

dwindle

eventful

exposure

fitful

frugal

generous

gloomy

gnarled

hurry

impartial

inauspicious

indistinguishable

invulnerable

lapse

laughable

lonely

majestic

misplaced

monumental

multitudinous

obscene

palmy

perusal

pious

premeditated

radiance

reliance

road

sanctimonious

seamy

sportive

submerge

suspicious

Along with these everyday words, Shakespeare also used a number of words in his plays that never quite caught on in the same way… words like ‘Armgaunt’, ‘Eftes’, ‘Impeticos’, ‘Insisture’, ‘Pajock’, ‘Pioned’ ‘Ribaudred’ and ‘Wappened’. We do have some ideas as to what these words may mean, though much is guesswork. Watch the video below for more insight into Shakespeare’s words that have been lost in the midst of time:

Read phrases that Shakespeare invented >>

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  1. Suzanne Valkemirer
    Suzanne Valkemirer says:

    The unfounded claim “Of those words, Shakespeare invented an incredible 1,700 of them!” is based on the unfounded claim that if Shakespeare is given as the author of the earliest quotation for a lexeme or for a meaning in The Oxford English Dictionary, the passage quoted constitutes the first use of the lexeme or the meaning.

    This article will set you straight on the matter:

    Gold, David L. 2005. “An Aspect of Lexicography Still Not Fully Professionalized: The Search for Antedatings and Postdatings (With Examples Mostly from English and Some from Other Languages).” Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses. No. 18. November. Pp. 25-69 [the article is available on line, free of charge, at rua.ua.es/dspace/handle/…/browse?type…Gold%2C+David+L].

    Reply
  2. nancy
    nancy says:

    Some of my favorites are scallywag, leapfrog, balderdash. If a word, phrase or pun sounds quirky, odd and literary, its origins are probably with Shakespeare. And yes, I do believe Shakespeare the man existed as a real man, actor, manager and grain merchant in Stratford, not as a pseudonym for a wealthy nobleman. Genius has been found in the most unusual and unpredictable places. Just look at the life on John Harrison the cabinet maker who solved the longitude problem.

    Reply
  3. So-and-So
    So-and-So says:

    This really helps with my English HW, thank you for this! But I can’t really believe that he invented generous or road as these were words used long before him.

    Reply
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