Shakespearean Expressions We Still Use

Go beyond “To be, or not to be” when quoting Shakespeare.

We all know how William Shakespeare revolutionized the English language, making up words to match the metrical structure of his writing needs. 400 years later, we still quote the Bard, not in extraordinary ways that sound grand and lofty, but in very common, downright ordinary ways. Words like cold-blooded, impartial, premeditated, eyeball, birthplace, skim milk, frugal, and excitement were all invented by Shakespeare, and each of these words are a part of our daily dialogue.

Quoting Shakespeare is much easier than memorizing a sonnet or a soliloquy. We use Shakespearean language on a daily basis. Have you ever described finding yourself in a difficult situation as being “in a pickle” or cried out “for goodness’ sake” when something didn’t go your way? We’ve all snarkily said “good riddance” to someone who has caused grievance, or described a scary movie as one that would “make your hairs stand on end.” In a speech, we might bring a topic “full circle” and get to know new people with activities designed to “break the ice.” Well, now you know that you’ve been quoting Shakespeare all along! Check out our list of phrases for all the things we say, thanks to Shakespeare.

Things We Say, Thanks To Shakespeare

“Knock, knock! Who’s there?” – Macbeth

“In a pickle” – The Tempest

“Set your teeth on edge” – Henry IV, Part I

“Heart of gold” – Henry V

“Faint-hearted” – Henry VI, Part I

“Good riddance” – Troilus and Cressida

“Lie low” – Much Ado About Nothing

“Fight fire with fire” – King John

“Bated breath” – Merchant of Venice

“Come what may” – Macbeth

“Send him packing” – Henry IV, Part I

“The game is up” – Cymbeline

“Wear your heart on your sleeve” – Othello

“I have not slept one wink.” – Cymbeline

“The wheel is come full circle.” – King Lear

“Out of the jaws of death” – Twelfth Night

“What’s done is done” – Macbeth

“Naked truth” – Love’s Labour’s Lost

“Too much of a good thing” – As You Like It

“Laughing stock” – The Merry Wives of Windsor

“Breathed his last” – Henry VI

“Break the ice” – Taming of the Shrew

“Wild goose chase” – Romeo and Juliet

“Heart of heart” – Hamlet

“Vanish into thin air” – Othello

“We have seen better days.” – As You Like It

“Makes your hair stand on end” – Hamlet

“Dead as a doornail” – Henry VI

“For goodness’ sake” – Henry VIII

“Love is blind” – Love’s Labour’s Lost

“Green-eyed monster” – Othello

“Fair play” – The Tempest

“Off with his head” – Richard III

“The world is my oyster” – The Merry Wives of Windsor

“Brave new world” – Macbeth

“The be all and end all” – Macbeth

“Sorry sight” – Macbeth

“All of a sudden” – Taming of the Shrew