Posted by: Jack Henry | April 22, 2021

Editor’s Corner: Happy Birthday, William Shakespeare

Good day, good friends!

Tomorrow is William Shakespeare’s birthday. He was born on April 23, 1564. Did you know that he died on his birthday in 1616?

He wrote his first play (Henry VI, Part 1) sometime between 1589 and 1591 and he wrote his last complete play (The Tempest) sometime between 1610 and 1611. In his 52 short years of life, he wrote at least 37 plays and collaborated on several more. While writing those plays, his sonnets, and his other poetry, he invented many new words. So, it seems fitting that today we pay tribute to the man and look at some of the words he coined. The following short list comes from the Grammarly blog:

  • bandit
    Henry VI, Part 2 (1594)
  • critic
    Love’s Labour Lost (1598)
  • dauntless
    Henry VI, Part 3 (1616)
  • dwindle
    Henry IV, Part 1 (1598)
  • elbow (as a verb)
    King Lear (1608)
  • green-eyed (to describe jealousy)
    The Merchant of Venice (1600)
  • lackluster
    As You Like It (1616)
  • lonely
    Coriolanus (1616)
  • skim-milk
    Henry IV, Part 1 (1598)
  • swagger
    Midsummer Night’s Dream (1600)

These are great words, but they are only the tip of a literary iceberg. Shakespeare has been credited with inventing more than 1700 words (if you’re interested, you can see more words here.) He usually worked with existing words and changed them to fit his needs. He is well-known for joining two words into one. He also changed many verbs into adjectives, and he changed many nouns into verbs. There is also a long list of words to which he added prefixes and suffixes to make new words. In fact, we still use many of Shakespeare’s invented words today.

So, happy birthday, William Shakespeare. Thank you for the gift of so many words, so many lovely sonnets, and so many thrilling plays. Thank you for the stories we all know and love.

Visit Shakespeare Online to learn more about his life and his works.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432

Pronouns she/her/hers

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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