1. he needed a word to convey a sense, but none the variations of a word that he was familiar with fit the bill;
2. he needed a word to have a certain number of syllables to fit the meter requirements of a line; normally the word had to naturally be spoken with an iambic rhythm; and
3. there existed no dictionaries or thesauruses for him to search for known words.
2. Elizabethan poets loved to create compound words. If something has the colour of amber, it makes sense to describe with a new adjective amber-coloured, doesn’t it?
3. Knowledgeable in foreign languages as he was, Shakespeare sometimes took foreign words, and incorporated them in a character’s English speech. Often times, later authors would reuse the words, giving them genuine life in English literature.
4. Shakespeare loved to have his less-refined characters try to speak – but fail – with high-style. The results are words known as malapropisms - misspeakings. His great character Mistress Quickly, whose is prone to such stumblings, tries to describe Anne’s tendency to melancholy moods, but it comes out as “she is given too much to allycholly and musing.” When allycholly pops up again in writing in the 19th century, we can say it has become a part of the language, albeit a rarely used part.
5. Occasionally Shakespeare simply altered a known word; hence dotard becomes dotant. Sometimes the cause of an alteration was to deliberately create a nonsense word, such as copatain from copatink.
6. More rarely, Shakespeare might abbreviate a known word, by dropping out a syllable. For example, Shakespeare invented the word disvouch by removing the middle syllable from the existing word disavouch.
7. Even more rarely, Shakespeare invented a word by merging two words. A good example of this is his new word dispurse, which weirdly melded disburse and depurse.
Site Still Under Construction
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 Say it First? Common words and expressions commonly attributed to Shakespeare.