Eyeball, Lackluster, Puking — and Other Words You Didn’t Know Shakespeare Invented


  • Of the nearly 18,000 written words in Shakespeare’s oeuvre, over 1,700 are seen for the first time in his works. This doesn’t necessarily mean he coined all those words — and in fact many of them most likely existed in other languages, like Latin, for a very long time before Shakespeare anglicized them.

    New words are known as neologisms, and the coining of new words or adopting words from other languages and making them, in essence, your own is called neologizing. Shakespeare was a master neologist.

    The word “eyeballs,” for instance, made its first appearance in the English language when Shakespeare wrote:

    Then crush this herb into Lysander’s eye;
    Whose liquor hath this virtuous property,
    To take from thence all error with his might,
    And make his eyeballs roll with wonted sight.

    (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act III, Scene ii)

    And the word “puking”:

    They have their exits and their entrances;
    And one man in his time plays many parts,
    His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
    Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.

    (As You Like It, Act II, Scene vii)

    The following — an astounding and by-no-means exhaustive list — are words that according to the Oxford English Dictionary Shakespeare was the first to put in print:

    addiction

    admirable

    advertising

    aerial

    alligator

    amazement

    arch-villain

    assassination

    barefaced

    bedroom

    belongings

    bloodstained

    bump

    buzzer

    cold-blooded

    coldhearted

    clangor

    compact

    critical

    controls

    critic

    critical

    dawn

    disgraceful

    dishearten

    distasteful

    embrace

    employer

    employment

    excitement

    eyesore

    farmhouse

    fathomless

    flawed

    fortuneteller

    foulmouthed

    frugal

    gloomy

    glow

    gnarled

    hurry

    jaded

    kissing

    lackluster

    laughable

    leaky

    leapfrog

    lonely

    long-legged

    love letter

    luggage

    lustrous

    madcap

    majestic

    malignancy

    manager

    marketable

    mimic

    misgiving

    misplaced

    monumental

    moonbeam

    mortifying

    motionless

    multitudinous

    neglect

    new-fangled

    nimble-footed

    noiseless

    numb

    obscene

    obsequiously

    outbreak

    perplex

    posture

    premeditated

    priceless

    Promethean

    protester

    published

    puking

    radiance

    rant

    rancorous

    reclusive

    reliance

    remorseless

    reprieve

    resolve

    restraint

    retirement

    revolting

    rival

    roadway

    rumination

    sanctimonious

    satisfying

    savage

    scrubbed

    shooting star

    seamy-side

    shudder

    silk

    stocking

    zany

    In addition to that, did you know that Shakespeare coined these female names: Olivia, Jessica, Miranda, and Imogen?

    And people have the nerve to ask me if “Shakespeare is all that”?






About The Author

The sawed-off shotgun of literary pulp.

2 Responses and Counting...

  • Liz 01.22.2013

    He was a master of words, remastering and integrating seemingly seamlessly. I hear too often that Shakespeare stole/borrowed themes and ideas…though, I think common knowledge excludes his inventive vernacular prowess or neologisms (as you say). Thank you for reminding – and Shakespeare would be attributed with inventing multitudinous…

  • Thank you, Liz. And thank you for dropping by.

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