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Have you ever wondered who started those expressions we've been using in everyday life? Well, you don't have to wonder any longer, because according to "The Friendly Shakespeare" by Norrie Epstein, there's a list of everyday expressions that come straight from Shakespeare's plays. And wouldn't you like to know you've been quoting Shakespeare's all along?

These are some of the most common phrases, words, and everyday expressions that were first used, and in most cases invented, by Shakespeare. I chose to post only the most common ones for fear that I'd bore you to death. You can see Norrie Epstein's full list if you so desire.

You may click on the links for fast access. Click on the candle image to come back up.




  • More in sorrow than in anger (Hamlet, I.2.232)
  • Neither rhyme nor reason (The comedy of Errors, II,2.48)
  • Laughing-stock (The Merry Wife of Windsor, III.1.77-78)
  • Devil incarnate (Henry V, II.3.30)
  • Dead as a doornail (Henry VI, Part2,IV.10.38)
  • What's done is done (Macbeth, III.2.12)
  • An eye-sore (The Taming of the Shrew, III.2.100)
  • Let's kill all the lawyers (Henry VI,Part2, IV.2.72)
  • A lean and hungry look (Julius Caesar, 1.2.193)
  • Such stuff as dreams are made on (The Tempest, IV.1.156.157)
  • Wear my heart on my sleeve (Othello, I.1.65)
  • The apple of her eye (The apple was the pupil).
    (Love's Labour's Lost, V.2.475)

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  • Not a mouse stirring (Hamlet, I.1.10)
  • Strange bedfellows (The Tempest, II.2.39)
  • Fair is foul, and foul is fair (Macbeth, I.1.9)
  • The naked truth (Love's Labour's Lost, V.2.706)
  • Knock, knock! Who's there? (Macbeth, II.3.3)
  • Star-crossed lovers (Romeo and Juliet, Prologue, 6)
  • Stood on ceremonies (Julius Caesar, II.2.13)
  • The quality of Mercy (The Merchant of Venice, IV.1.181)
  • For goodness' sake (Henry VIII, III.1.159)
  • A tower of strength (RichardIII, V.3.12)
  • Good riddance (Troilus and Cressida, II.1.119)
  • Good night, ladies (Hamlet, IV.5.72)

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  • What's done is done (Macbeth, III.2.12)
  • Till the crack of doom (Macbeth, IV.1.116)
  • What the dickens ["Dickens" was slang for "devil".]
    (The Merry Wives of winsor, III.2.17)
  • The green-eyed monster (Othello, III.3.164)
  • More fool you (The Taming of the Shrew, V.2.128)
  • Paint [not "Gild"] the lily (King John, IV.2.11)
  • As white as driven snow (The Winter's Tale, IV.4.220)
  • The game is afoot [Made popular by Sherlock Holmes.]
    (Henry IV, PartI.1.3.272)
  • The game is up (Cymbeline, III.3.107)
  • Breathe one's last (Henry VI, Part3,V.2.40)
  • The course of true never did run smooth
    (A Midsummer Night's Dream, I.1.132)
  • Budge an inch (The Taming of the shrew, Induction 12)

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