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William Shakespeare Phrases

The contribution of William Shakespeare to English literature and language is immense and commendable. He has coined a variety of phrases and usages which, in course of time have found way into the literature. At least some of them were also translated and used in regional languages also.

Some of the Phrases coined by William Shakespeare through his words are as follows. Most of them flow from his plays, both comedy and tragedy plays. Not all sources of phrases have been indicated.

William Shakespeare Phrases

William Shakespeare Phrases

Better foot before (“best foot forward”) (King John)

The better part of valor is discretion (I Henry IV)

In a better world than this (As You Like It)

Neither a borrower nor a lender be (Hamlet)

Brave new world (The Tempest)

Break the ice (The Taming of the Shrew)

Breathed his last (3 Henry VI)

Brevity is the soul of wit (Hamlet)

Refuse to budge an inch (Measure for Measure / Taming of the Shrew)

Cold comfort (The Taming of the Shrew / King John)

Conscience does make cowards of us all (Hamlet)

Come what come may (“come what may”) (Macbeth)

Comparisons are odorous (Much Ado about Nothing)

Crack of doom (Macbeth)

malignancy (Twelfth Night, seems possible)

manager (Love’s Labour’s Lost / Midsummer Night’s Dream; first attestation as noun)

marketable (As You Like It; first use as adjective)

militarist (All’s Well that Ends Well)

mimic (Midsummer Night’s Dream)

Mum’s the word (Henry VI, Part 2)

Neither here nor there (Othello)

Send him packing (Henry IV)

Set your teeth on edge (Henry IV)

There’s method in my madness (Hamlet)

Too much of a good thing (As You Like It)

Vanish into thin air (Othello)

to thine own self be true

too much of a good thing

towering passion

The crack of doom

The game is up

Love is blind

Like the Dickens

Night owl

More fool you

A sorry sight (Macbeth)

As dead as a doornail (Henry VI)

Eaten out of house and home (Henry V, Part 2)

Fair play (The Tempest)

I will wear my heart upon my sleeve (Othello)

In a pickle (The Tempest)


be all and end all

break the ice

breathe one’s last


live long day

design (several, seems unlikely)

dexterously (Twelfth Night)

dialogue (several, seems already familiar)

disgraceful (I Henry VI; means “not graceful”)

dishearten (Henry V)

to dislocate (King Lear, refers to anatomy)

Milk of human kindness

Short shrift

Stony hearted

Up in arms

Woe is me

When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in ballallions

Too much of a good thing

Long and short of it

heart of gold




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