Shakespeare Day: How the bard’s successful wordplay still adds excitement to our language

Posted on

On 23 April 1616, renowned playwright William Shakespeare passed away at the age of 52. A celebration of his life and work still takes place every year on the 23 April to mark his achievements.

Today, Shakespeare is often associated with exams for teenagers up and down the country. More than 400 years after his death, his plays are still a core part of the national curriculum. You may remember poring over a copy of Hamlet or trying to decipher metaphors in Macbeth in your school days.

During his lifetime, Shakespeare wrote some 39 plays and more than 150 sonnets – providing plenty of material for classrooms. While the bard might be associated with studying, his impact on the English language is much greater than what’s taught at school.

Shakespeare is credited with inventing more than 1,700 words (including “successful” and “excitement”)

While other playwrights are also credited with inventing new words, Shakespeare is linked to a staggering amount; more than 1,700 words are first recorded in his work.

While reading the playwright’s text today can seem far different to our language, there’s a surprising number of words that first appeared in his work and are still relevant.

Here’s just a handful of the words that first appeared in Shakespeare’s plays:

  • Gossip
  • Critic
  • Swagger
  • Amazement
  • Laughable
  • Luggage
  • Olympian
  • Marketable

It’s not just new words that the bard invented either – he cleverly combined words to create turns of phrase that emphasise events, emotions, and conjure up images.

If you’ve ever said “green-eyed monster”, “the world is your oyster”, or “catch a cold”, you’ve been quoting Shakespeare’s Othello, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Cymbeline.

His creative and witty wordplay has led to memorable insults that can still make audiences chuckle today, from “more of your conversation would infect my brain” (Coriolanus) to “I do desire we may be better strangers” (As You Like It).

Shakespeare’s rich vocabulary and unique ways to express emotions from joy to despair have ensured his work remains much-loved and celebrated centuries after his death.

Of course, historians can’t be sure that all these words and phrases can be attributed to the mind of Shakespeare. After all, audiences in the 1600s would have needed some frame of reference to understand the plays.

Yet, he certainly played a role in making them more popular and ensuring some continue to be a part of our lexicon today.

Would “fashionable” still be used if Ulysses hadn’t used the term in Troilus and Cressida?

5 of Shakespeare’s inventions that didn’t catch on

You can’t win them all, and the same is true for Shakespeare. While a huge number of his invented words have made their way into everyday use, some of his creations didn’t catch on in the same way as “love is blind”.

In fact, while we can guess the meanings of some words based on the context of the plays, experts still aren’t clear about their meanings, including these five.

  1. Braid – In All’s Well That Ends Well Diana says “Frenchmen are so braid”. It’s a line that’s puzzled scholars but some have suggested it comes from the Old Scots word “braidie”, which means cunning.
  2. Eftest – The character of Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing uses mistaken words throughout the play. The problem with the phrase “yea, marry, that’s the eftest way” is that it’s unclear whether marrying is being suggested as convenient, quick, or something else entirely.
  3. Armgaunt – The word appears in the opening of Anthony & Cleopatra to describe Marc Antony’s steed. Two suggestions have been put forward for this one claiming that it means “slim-limbed” or “armoured”.
  4. Balk’d – The line “ten thousand bold Scots, two-and-twenty knights, balk’d in their own blood” has been debated by editors who are unsure what “balk’d” means. Balk is often used to mean a mound or ridge, but in this context, it doesn’t fit. Some suggest it means “baulk”, while others think it’s a misspelling of “baked”.
  5. Wappened – In Timon of Athens, a widow is described as “wappened”. While the meaning is unclear, it’s thought that it can be used in place of “exhausted” or “worn out”.

As well as language, Shakespeare continues to influence theatres, films, books and more. So, to mark Shakespeare Day, why not pick up one of his plays or a modern work inspired by one of his stories?

We aim to keep our clients up to date on interesting and relevant financial news.

You can sign-up to receive our monthly newsletter by email, even if you’re not yet a client. Sign-up using the form below.

Client testimonials

I have always found Black Swan to be caring and understanding of my quirky lifestyle. I always feel they try to get me the best returns while respecting my current needs.

Sally Muir

A client since 2011

We would be very happy to recommend the support and service we receive.

Valerie Locks

A client since 2010

I have always been completely useless regarding finance - thankfully our financial adviser is not! I've retired with far more than I ever expected and investments continue to grow safely. So - thank you!

Bernadette Jane Warner

A client since 2000

Very happy with the professional service I have received and feel a lot happier now with my finances put in order.

Martin Field

A client since 2011

Julie Cooper was recommended to me by a work colleague. She has been very helpful, professional and has explained everything well. I would definitely recommend her services to anyone else who are interested in a financial review.

Steven Rooke

A client since 2018

…Service has been first class.

Hugh Fells

A client since 2012

My face to face meetings with Rob Young and Jessica Lyons have always been very open and understandable. My questions have been answered clearly and I have left feeling that my financial matters are in good hands.

Sandra Jack

A client since 2000

[A] safe pair of hands in a complex financial world.

Gary Middlehurst

A client since 2003

A reliable company with good communication skills and good knowledge of the financial markets.

Alan Evetts

A client since 2014

Maureen Pembridge is a long-time trusted advisor to our family. The market might fluctuate but her attention to detail is consistent.

Linda Burnard

A client since 2000

I am pleased to recommend Julie as a trustworthy financial advisor. She explains financial jargon in plain language, and always listens carefully to my particular financial needs and has helped me make the best of my savings.

Carolann Samuels

A client since 2010

I have always been satisfied with the way that Black Swan has handled my account. And I have always found the staff very helpful whenever I need to call the office.

Robert Anthony Matthews

A client since 2012

An excellent personal service from a person I know and trust.

Michael Dalton

A client since 2010

I am getting a very good services from Black Swan, they have got my investments sorted out which was in a bit of a mess.

Roy Jakens

A client since 2012

A good, efficient team providing clear ideas to shape a winning strategy.

Adrian Michael Levenstein

A client since 2011

Black Swan is a company to be trusted, with friendly staff and professional advisors.

David Brian Jennings

A client since 2017

I have been with Black Swan for many years. I have never wished to change anything. They give a good straight forward service.

Martin Barrett Brooks

A client since 2010

Andy Peters has been invaluable in firstly combining several pension pots and then giving excellent investment advice. It has given us a great deal of comfort to know that our financial affairs are in such good hands.

James Guillum Scott

A client since 2014

I find my financial advisor easy to talk to and feel that she understands my lifestyle. She is always available for help when I need her and explains in words that I can understand.

Margaret Ena Glasgow

A client since 2000

Andy is a first rate Director, excellent communicator and leader.

Ross Perry

A client since

Black Swan Financial Planning and Andrew in particular, are very clever at working out how risk averse we are, and coming up with solutions that we feel comfortable with. We are happy in the knowledge that we can continue to enjoy a comfortable retirement. Andrew Peters is a very, very friendly person who is great to chat to and easy to deal with. He explains things very clearly in layman’s terms, and if we still don’t understand, he explains it until we do!

Alan & Jane Dyer

Clients since 2012

We have always found Rob [Young] to be very approachable and knowledgeable. We have every confidence in the advice given and feel comfortable with the decisions we’ve made. There are certain opportunities that we wouldn’t have known about if Rob hadn’t brought them to light, which makes the advice good value for money as far as we’re concerned.

Peter & Pauline O’Halloran

Clients since 2013

Rob [Young] is extremely knowledgeable. I knew nothing about the different types of trusts which will not only secure my income in retirement, but also leave a legacy for my children. I’m glad that I sought his advice when I did.

Sarah Wilson

A client since 2015

I am extremely happy with the service afforded to me by the company and my adviser Julie Cooper.

Geoff Coxell

A client since 2010

My wife and myself have been dealing with Black Swan for a number of years. We have met with different representatives from the company over the years and have found all very helpful in their own way. We met with James [Anderson] a few years ago and found him very helpful and knowledgeable. He keeps in contact with us on a regular basis. We find the Company information very helpful and we feel very secure with our finances.

Andrew Kirchen

A client since 2015

I have always found my adviser to be easy to contact, very professional in his approach, yet friendly and understanding. I have a sense of an experienced company behind him, really on the ball financially and with good standards.

B McBean

A client since 2011

Partner with the most reliable and experienced team of advisers

Enter your details & we'll be in touch to discuss your needs.
Alternatively, contact us directly and speak to a member of the team.

    Subscribe to our newsletter