Come On, Did Shakespeare Really Invent Words?

 
Yes, Shakespeare did invent words, but not in the manner most people think.


Shakespeare did not “invent” words in the sense that he, for example, decided he needed a word that means “cow”, but with four syllables, and so out of his imagination came up with the word “grabofillbert”. 

Rather, he adapted old words by fitting them with prefixes and suffixes, or by combining them, to give them a new sense.  In this fashion, Shakespeare did invent numerous words. For example, Shakespeare took the common word guessing, and turned it into an adverb by adding the suffix -ly to it: guessingly. This is indeed a new word, asit had never appeared in English literature before.

It is commonly written that Shakespeare actually rarely invented words, that in fact he most likely simply was the first to write down words that were already part of the language.

DID SHAKESPEARE REALLY INVENT WORDS? Yes and no; on the one hand - and contrary to public belief - Shakespeare did not “invent” words in the sense that he, for example, decided he needed a word that means “cow”, but with four syllables, and so out of his imagination came up with the word “grabofillbert”. Rather, he adapted old words by fitting them with prefixes and suffixes, or by combining them, to give them a new sense. In this fashion, Shakespeare did invent numerous words. Shakespeare also can be credited with giving the English language new words by (a) adopting foreign words into written English, and (b) creating nonsense words and malapropisms. Why did Shakespeare invent words? Because (1) he needed a word; (2) he would have been in a hurry to complete any play he was working on, due to the publics great demand for new material, and (3) he did not have a dictionary or thesaurus to help. Indeed, the first dictionaries had not yet been written in the early 17th century. We do use the word “invented” on this site, for two reasons: (1) it is a handy short-hand way to get the attention of internet researchers, and (2) to be gently ironic.





Shakespeare also can be credited with giving the English language new words by (a) adopting foreign words into written English, and (b) creating nonsense words and malapropisms.
 
Why did Shakespeare invent words? Because (1) he needed a word; (2) he would have been in a hurry to complete any play he was working on, due to the publics great demand for new material, and (3) he did not have a dictionary or thesaurus to help. Indeed, the first dictionaries had not yet been written in the early 17th century.

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LISTS.

1. Master List of All Words “Invented” by Shakespeare, and links to detailed tables.

2. Still-Common Words First Appearing in a work by Shakespeare - a complete list.

3. Still-Common Compound Words First Appearing in a work by Shakespeare.

4. Common Words WRONGLY Attributed to Shakespeare.

5. Common Compound-Words WRONGLY Attributed to Shakespeare.

Did Shakespeare Really Invent Words?

Did Shakespeare Say it First? Common words and expressions commonly attributed to Shakespeare.

Why did Shakespeare invent words?

Methodology.

 Exploring the Language and Invented Words of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries
 
 

Exploring the Language and Invented Words of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries

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