How Did William Shakespeare Shape the English Language?
William Shakespeare has been called the greatest poet and playwright of all time. As the third most translated author in history, his influence stretches far and wide. Having used more than 20,000 words in his plays and poems, William Shakespeare is credited with inventing or introducing over 1,700 words that are still utilized in the English language today.
During Shakespeare's time (the late 16th and early 17th centuries), the rules and grammar of the English language were not standardized. This gave him freedom to experiment with words and phrases. While the exact number of words that he invented is debated among scholars, it cannot be denied that William Shakespeare helped develop the style and structure of the English language.
As with anything new, there are some things that stick around and some that don’t. The same holds true for the words and phrases used in language. Some of William Shakespeare’s original terms that are still used in conversation today include “a sorry sight,” “seen better days,” and “strange bedfellows.” He is also credited with inventing words such as “gossip,” “kissing,” “lonely,” “obscene,” “worthless,” “arch-villain,” “cold-blooded,” “foul-mouthed,” “vulnerable,” and “revolting.”
Shakespeare's linguistic legacy:
- William Shakespeare is often referred to as the “Bard of Avon” or “The Bard.” A bard is a professional storyteller.
- Guinness World Records places William Shakespeare in the top spot as the world’s best-selling playwright. An excess of over four billion copies of his works have been sold since his death in 1616.
- Shakespeare is also credited with coining the words “batty,” “bloodsucking,” “hostile,” “howl,” “ill-tempered,” “mortifying,” “quarrelsome,” and “shudder," among many others.
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