Can you guess these words and phrases coined by Shakespeare?

HISTORY

Maria Trimarchi

6 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Even if you haven't read much of Shakespeare's work, you can thank him for adding potentially thousands of words and phrases you use every day. He turned nouns into verbs and adjectives, and vice-versa, and wasn't afraid of making up what he needed. And while he didn't invent all the words and expressions we attribute to him, sometimes he was just the first to write them down.

While you might think of "Alice in Wonderland's" Queen of Hearts yelling, "Off with his head," it was which of Shakespeare's kings who said it first?

It was Richard III who said, “If? Thou protector of this damnèd strumpet, talk’st thou to me of 'ifs'? Thou art a traitor. Off with his head.”

Advertisement

When Hamlet says it's "now the very witching time of night, when churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out contagion to this world," what time is it?

Shakespeare wrote it as the "witching time of night," or the witching hour, but we just call it midnight.

Advertisement

What is "the soul of wit"?

Polonius, to Hamlet's stepfather, King Claudius, says about Hamlet, "since brevity is the soul of wit, and tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief. Your noble son is mad."

Advertisement

What's the correct way to complete: "Knock, knock! _____ _____, in the' other devil's name?"

Is Shakespeare responsible for the first published knock-knock joke? In Macbeth, he writes, “Knock, knock! Who’s there, in th' other devil’s name?”

Advertisement

Although it may have been Sherlock Holmes who made it famous, which phrase first appeared in "Henry V?"

It became Sherlock Holmes' catchphrase, but it came from King Henry V's outcry, "The game's afoot: follow your spirit, and upon this charge cry God for Harry, England, and Saint George!"

Advertisement

Pistol describes King Henry V as a "bawcock," a "lad of life," and an "imp of fame," with a heart of what?

In Henry V, Pistol describes the king as "a bawcock, and a heart of gold, a lad of life, an imp of fame, of parents good, of fist most valiant.”

Advertisement

Which of these Shakespeare-invented words never caught on?

For the numerous words and phrases that made it into our everyday language, there were others that didn't go far beyond the play they were in. Pajock, ribaudred and wappened, are three that never caught on.

Advertisement

Aldous Huxley's novel, "Brave New World," got its name from which Shakespeare play?

The phrase, "Brave New World," was first used in "The Tempest."

Advertisement

"The purest treasure mortal times afford is" what kind of reputation?

Thomas Mowbray says to King Richard II, "My dear dear lord, the purest treasure mortal times afford is spotless reputation: that away, men are but gilded loam or painted clay."

Advertisement

What helpful phrase does Patroclus give us after Thersites exits, in "Troilus and Cressida?"

Although all of these are credited to the Bard, upon Thersites' exit, Patroclus says, "A good riddance."

Advertisement

Complete the advice Polonius gives his son Laertes: neither a _____ nor a _____ be.

In "Hamlet," Polonius advises his son, “neither a borrower nor a lender be; for loan oft loses both itself and friend.”

Advertisement

Shakespeare gave us which word to describe our nemesis?

We hear this word from Timon, in "Timon of Athens," when he says, “You that way and you this, but two in company; each man apart, all single and alone, yet an arch-villain keeps him company.”

Advertisement

Which of Shakespeare's protaganists was the first character to refer to an "eyeball"?

Prospero, who was a magician rather than a physician, is the first to refer to an eyeball when he says, “Go make thyself like a nymph o' the sea: be subject to no sight but thine and mine, invisible to every eyeball else.”

Advertisement

How does Biron describe the month of May in "Love's Labour's Lost?"

“At Christmas I no more desire a rose than wish a snow in May's new-fangled mirth," says Biron. And with that, "new-fangled" is born.

Advertisement

While its literal meaning describes how certain creatures warm themselves, Shakespeare used what word to mean without emotion or without mercy?

Shakespeare goes beyond the literal thermophysiological meaning of cold-blooded to, instead, using it as a word meaning "without emotion" when Constance, in "King John," says, “Thou cold-blooded slave, hast thou not spoke like thunder on my side, been sworn my soldier, bidding me depend upon thy stars, thy fortune and thy strength, and dost thou now fall over to my fores?"

Advertisement

In the 2000s, a "half-blood" was a Muggle-born wizard. But it was Shakespeare who first used the term in what play?

"Half-blooded," as well as "hot-blooded," was coined in "King Lear."

Advertisement

What word did Iago use to describe cats, in his example about creatures who toy with their prey before killing them?

In "Othello," Iago, when explaining romantic relationships, calls cats "green-eyed monsters," when he describes how they play with their food. Eight years earlier, Shakespeare also uses the phrase, "green-eyed jealousy," in "The Merchant of Venice."

Advertisement

The world is your what kind of mollusk?

"The world's your oyster" comes from Shakespeare's play, "The Merry Wives of Windsor." (Although in Elizabethan English, it's "the world's mine oyster.")

Advertisement

Which Shakespearean phrase means purity and chasteness?

While the phrase, "as pure as the driven snow" doesn't appear in his works, "pure as snow" and "pure as the snow" do.

Advertisement

More than just adding sparkling fake jewels to your jeans, which Shakepeare-coined word also means to be so dazzled by something you're blinded by it?

"Bedazzled" -- spoken by Katherina in "The Taming of the Shrew" when she says, "Pardon, old father, my mistaking eyes, that have been so bedazzled with the sun that everything I look on seemeth green" -- was the first written appearance of the word.

Advertisement

While you're likely to find friends and foes (and friends and friends) poisoning one another in his tragedies, with what does Petruchio intend to kill his wife, Kate, in "Taming of the Shrew?"

Well, not kill in the literal sense of the word -- this is a comedy, after all. Instead of the dagger or poisoned goblet of a tragedy, Petruchio intends to change his wife's "mad and headstrong humor" by killing her with kindness.

Advertisement

In "The Tempest," when King Alonso asks his jester, Trinculo, "How camest thou in this pickle?," what is he asking?

The King is asking Trinculo how he got so drunk -- which isn't far off from our modern definition of being in a difficult situation. While it was likely part of the spoken language before Shakespeare wrote it down, he gets credit for writing it down first.

Advertisement

Who was the first to deliver the line, "Cry 'havoc!' and let slip the dogs of war," and in what play?

While "Cry, 'Havoc!'" was a common military cry at the time, "let slip the dogs of war" wasn't. It's spoken by Mark Antony to Brutus and Cassius, in "Julius Caesar."

Advertisement

Mercutio says to Romeo, in Romeo and Juliet, "Nay, if our wits run the _____ chase, I am done." What type of chase is it?

Mercutio says, "Nay, if our wits run the wild-goose chase, I am done, for thou hast more of the wild-goose in one of thy wits than, I am sure, I have in my whole five," after joking around with Romeo.

Advertisement

Who delivers the metaphor, "it was Greek to me," in "Julius Caesar?" And who does he say it to?

It's Servilius Casca who says this to Cassius in Shakespeare's play "Julius Caesar." And while he probably wasn't the very first to use the phrase, Shakespeare was one of the first to write it down.

Advertisement

Complete the saying: All that glitters isn't _____.

Surprise, Chaucer wrote it first! Shakespeare popularized "all that glitters isn't gold" in the play "The Merchant of Venice" (originally "all that glistens isn't gold"), but it technically isn't his.

Advertisement

In which of his comedies do Shakespeare's characters wonder, is it possible to ever have too much of a good thing?

The phrase, "too much of a good thing," appears in Shakespeare's play "As You Like It," when Rosalind wonders to Orlando and Celia, "Why then, can one desire too much of a good thing?"

Advertisement

Which of these Shakespeare-coined words never caught on?

Neither "armgaunt," "eftes" nor "insisture" ever caught on.

Advertisement

Which seasons are referred to in the first lines of Shakespeare's "Richard III" -- "Now is the _____ of our discontent. Made glorious _____ by this sun of York" -- as spoken by Gloucester?

Gloucester's soliloquy begins, "Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York; and all the clouds that lour'd upon our house in the deep bosom of the ocean buried."

Advertisement

Today we say, "in my heart of hearts." But how did Shakespeare's Hamlet originally say it?

Today we say, "in my heart of hearts," whereas Hamlet said, "in my heart of heart."

Advertisement

Which idiom, meaning to initiate something, like starting a conversation or making an introduction to remove the tension between strangers, is introduced in "Taming of the Shrew?"

All of these are phrases from the Bard, but it's in "Taming of the Shrew" where Shakespeare first delivers the expression, "break the ice."

Advertisement

Which of Shakespeare's words means something lacks brillance or vitality?

Of all these Shakespeare-coined words, when something is lackluster, it literally lacks luster, brilliance or vitality. Shakespeare put that one together, originally in his play "As You Like It."

Advertisement

Lady Macbeth complains her husband is too full of what to kill his enemies?

Lady Macbeth complains Macbeth is "too full of the milk of human kindness."

Advertisement

Iago is the first we know of to say he'll wear what upon his sleeve?

Although the phrase, "wear your heart on your sleeve" very likely existed before Iago used it in "Othello," Shakespeare is the first known to have written it down.

Advertisement

Complete the expression, "he hath eaten me out of _____ and _____."

The expression, "house and home," is probably 400 years older than Shakespeare. His phrase, "he hath eaten me out of house and home" appears in "Henry IV."

Advertisement

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!

Explore More Quizzes