Shakespeare’s New Words

Vivian Cook

In the Elizabethan era many new words came into English, 26,947 between 1500 and 1659, particularly based on Latin. Around 700 of these are found for the first time in the writings of Shakespeare. It may be accidental that many of these crop up in Shakespeare; obviously he was reflecting the language around him and could not use too many new words without losing his audience. Nevertheless their sheer number does suggest that some must have been his own coinage, particularly as many use Latin forms in an un-Latin way – according to Ben Jonson, Shakespeare had ‘small Latin and less Greek’. Here are some of those that have come down to us today, though not necessarily with the same meaning.
 

Abstemious

Accommodation

Addiction

Characterless

Compulsive

Consign

Contentless

Countless

Dateless

Deracinate

Duellist

Ensnare

Expertness

Fashionable

Fixture

Invulnerable

Invitation

Generous

Immediacy

Laughable

Impair

Indistinguishable

Majestic

Mimic

Negotiate

Obscene

Operate

Overcredulous

Pedant

Predecease

Priceless

Profitless

Prophetic

Proposer

Radiance

Refractory

Reinforcement

Savagery

Stricture

Submerge  

Superscript

Supervise

Tranquil

Uncurbed

Undervalue

Uneducated

Unfrequented

Unimpaired  

Unprevailing

Unquestionable

Unsolicited

Useful

Useless

 

Source Bryan Ganar

Dr Johnson's Words Chaucer's Words
Shakespeare Test Words index  Vivian Cook