Thursday, 16 June 2011

The Bard of Ye Olde England


If someone ever mentions the name, we think of Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, or funny love stories that become more and more complicated after the turn of each page. Not only has dear Will contributed to our entertainment industry and to England's heritage and tourism income, but he has contributed just as much to our language, though so many of us are unaware of this. And no, they aren't just silly words that mean nothing to us anymore, they are everyday words that we may use whenever we want to express ourselves. That takes some skill.

I am going to provide a list of words first recorded in Shakespeare's works; see if you would ever have expected it of him!

1) Accused (noun). First recorded in Richard III, the word was already a verb from the Latin 'causa', but Shakespeare used it as a noun. It is now commonly used in trials.

Extract: "Face to face / And frowning brow to brow ourselves will hear / The accused and the accuser freely speak"

2) Blushing (adjective). This was used in Richard II. It was also used in Henry VIII and two of Shakespeare's poems called Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece.

Extract: When the angry king's face is compared to "the blushing discontented sun".

3) Cater (verb). This word derives from the Middle English noun meaning 'buyer of provisions'. Shakespeare includes 'cater' in As You Like It, when an old servant is talking to Orlando.

Extract: "Take that and He that doth the ravens feed / Yea, providently caters for the sparrow / Be comfort to my age!"

4) Critic (noun). This is used by Shakespeare in Love's Labour's Lost when Berowne is complaining, having made fun of others for being in love. Shakespeare was, indeed, constantly criticised for his work so it is not entirely surprising that he made up 'critic'.

Extract: "I...have been love's whip / A critic, nay, a night-watch constable".

5) Denote (verb). This is used in Shakespeare's tragedy Romeo and Juliet, said by Friar Lawrence when admonishing Romeo for contemplating suicide. It is from the Latin meaning 'to mark or note out'.

Extract: "Thy wild acts denote / The unreasonable fury of a beast".

6) Frugal (adjective). This word can be found in the comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor, in the scene where Mistress Page is surprised to receive a love letter from someone unexpected. It derives from the Latin word 'frugalis' which means 'frugal or virtuous".

Extract: "Why, he hath not been thrice in my company!... I was then frugal of my mirth".

Here are some briefer examples too:

aerial / aggravate / brittle / bump / castigate / countless / cranny / critical / dwindle / eventful / excellent / fitful / fragrant / frugal / gnarled / gust / hint / homicide / hurry / lonely / majestic / monumental / obscene / pedant / radiance / submerge / summit / 

bare-faced / blood-stained / cloud-capped (towers) / fancy-free / fore-father / ill-starred / heaven-kissing (hill) / lacklustre (eye) / leap-frog / snow-white.

I do hope you enjoyed this bite of knowledge. I think it is so inspiring that one man created so many words that we use in everyday language. Imagine trying to do that...

By Jess


  1. That was extremely informative. I knew he added to the English language but I didnt know much about the specifics. Thanks!

  2. I really should start reading some Shakespeare...