Here’s How William Shakespeare Influenced the Way We Speak Today

A legendary playwright celebrated for his wide array of poetry and plays, William Shakespeare also happened to be a language pioneer. Credited by Oxford English Dictionary with first-use citations of over 1,600 words, here are some of the phrases that Shakespeare created that we continue to use today.


In Shakespreare’s comedy “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” the character Berowne reflects on his past behavior, admitting how judgemental he can be. He referred to himself as “a critic, nay, a night-watch constable.” Originally a Greek word meaning “to judge”, “critic” had thus been incorporated by into the English language.

Wild Goose Chase

Until today, “wild goose chase” is a popular way of describing a venture that will ultimately lead nowhere. The first time that this phrase was used was in “Romeo and Juliet”, when jokester Mercutio tells his friend Romeo, “If thy wits run the wild-goose chase, I have done, for thou hast more of the wild-goose in one of thy wits than, I am sure, I have in my whole five.”

Skim Milk

While a popular healthier alternative to full cream milk, “skim milk” is actually not such a modern concept as many might believe. It first appeared in “Henry IV”, when the skimming of cream from milk is used to describe someone of weak character. “I could divide myself and go to buffets, for moving such a dish of skim-milk with so honorable an action!” Hotspur proclaims, speaking of a nobleman who refused to support his rebellion against the king.

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