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 use at the time, just not written down prior to Shakespeare using them in hi plays, and in the process documenting the words for the first time. Historian Jonathan Hope also points out that Victorian scholars who read texts for the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary 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.
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:
And it wasn’t just words that Shakespeare documented, brought into common usage or invented – he also put words together and created a host of new phrases. Read all about the phrases that Shakespeare invented here.
Seen enough about Shakespeare’s words? Why not see them in action by reading our pick of the very best Shakespeare quotes (including the classic to be or not to be), or reading quotes by play, including Macbeth quotes, Romeo & Juliet quotes, Julius Caesar quotes and Hamlet quotes. Or perhaps you’re more of a romantic soul, and would like to read Shakespeare’s very best love quotes.