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How the English language changed thanks to Shakespeare?

10th May 2018

Last month, the UK celebrated National Shakespeare Day. William Shakespeare died on the 23rd of April, 1616 at the age of 52. He is considered to be the greatest British writer of all time and he is the most quoted author in the English-speaking world.

Before Shakespeare, written English was not standardised. That means that the language didn’t have a fixed structure and the vocabulary was constantly changing. During this time, the English language borrowed many words from other languages due to wars, colonization and diplomacy. It is believed that Shakespeare introduced around 1,700 original words into the language. How did this happen? For example, changing nouns into verbs, connecting words that had never been used together before or adding prefixes like un- or –in to some pre-existing words.

Here is a short list of some of the words he created, which we still use today:

  • Addiction: the need or strong desire to do or to have something.
  • Assassination: the murder of someone famous or important.
  • Cold-blooded: behaving in a very cruel way.
  • Fashionable: popular at a particular time.
  • Manager: the person who is responsible for managing an organization.
  • Uncomfortable: not feeling comfortable or pleasant.

Some of the phrases we use today were first written in his plays, like “breaking the ice” or having a “heart of gold”.

Now you know how important Shakespeare was for the English language, but if you want to learn more about his life, check out this interesting video.

Read more about Shakespeare:

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