William Shakespeare is credited with inventing (or first recording) more than 1,700 words that became common in the English language. In addition, he coined more than 250 phrases that have become part of our everyday lives. Here are ten phrases you probably use without realizing that you’re quoting Shakespeare:
“Plain as the nose on your face”
Shakespeare’s comedy, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, referred ironically to Valentine’s love for Silvia being “invisible as a nose on a man’s face, or a weathercock on a steeple.” In other words, as plain as the nose on a man’s face.
“Love is blind”
Though Shakespeare wrote the phrase, “Love is blind,” into three of his plays (The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Merchant of Venice, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream), the phrase did not originate with him; it appears also in works by the ancient Greek poet, Theocritus, and the medieval English poet, Chaucer.
“All that glitters is not gold”
This is one of several Shakespeare lines that is more often misquoted than accurately quoted. In his play, The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare wrote, “All that glisters is not gold.” It means the same thing, either way.
“[Eaten] out of house and home”
If you’ve ever said that your teenage child was eating you “out of house and home,” you were quoting Mistress Quickly from Henry IV Part II.
“It was Greek to me”
In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Cassius asks Casca whether the great orator, Cicero, spoke in a public forum. Casca said yes, but “it was Greek to me.” Funny thing is, Cicero literally spoke Greek instead of Latin, so the original phrase was both metaphorically and literally accurate.
“My own flesh and blood”
In The Merchant of Venice, the moneylender Shylock learns that his daughter has stolen from him and run away. He bemoans the betrayal of “My own flesh and blood.” The shorter phrase, “flesh and blood,” is used in fourteen of the Bard’s thirty-eight plays.
“In my mind’s eye”
In Hamlet, the prince is talking to his friend Horatio, when suddenly he cries, “My father! methinks I see my father.” Horatio says, “Where, my lord?” Hamlet answers, “In my mind’s eye, Horatio.”
“The short and long of it”
In The Merry Wives of Windsor, the play Shakespeare wrote (according to tradition) at the request of Queen Elizabeth, Mistress Quickly tells Falstaff, “This is the short and the long of it,” as a way of summarizing things for him. She then goes on for almost two hundred words more before the fat knight can get a word in edgewise. So it was more “the long” than “the short” of it.
When the despicable character Thersites exits the stage in Act 2 Scene 1 of Troilus and Cressida, the Greek commander Patroclus says, “A good riddance.” In other words, he was glad to be “rid” of Thersites. Though many phrases from Shakespeare have taken on a different meaning over the years, “good riddance” is still used in much the same way today.
“A foregone conclusion”
The villain Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello incites jealousy in his master and then cleverly argues with him, making Othello recite his suspicions as if they were his own. Othello comes to see his wife’s unfaithfulness as “a foregone conclusion,” meaning a result that can be predicted ahead of time.