Everyday Shakespeare: 8 Phrases You Might Not Know Are From the Bard

William Shakespeare is often labelled as the greatest English writer of all time. It's not just because of the many plays and sonnets he wrote, but because he had a lasting impact on the English language.

everyday Shakespeare: common phrases by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare's influence extends way beyond the stage. In fact, there are many everyday phrases we use that are directly from the Bard. Here are 8 common phrases you might not realize were popularized by Shakespeare himself!



1. "Seen better days" - As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII

"True is it that we have seen better days."


Although 'seen better days' was first spotted in a 1590 play called Sir Thomas More, its source is often attributed to Shakespeare. Not only was Sir Thomas More penned anonymously, but it is believed Shakespeare had a hand in helping write it. The Bard was also rather fond of the phrase as he used in not one, but two of his other plays!


come what may Macbeth quote

2. "Come what may" - Macbeth, Act I, Scene III

"Come what come may, Time and the hour runs through the roughest day."


The famous broadway tune 'Come What May' from Moulin Rouge might be the first thing you think of when it comes to this phrase, but we actually owe its origins to Shakespeare.



3. "Love is blind" - The Merchant of Venice, Act II, Scene VI

"Love is blind and lovers cannot see the pretty follies that themselves commit."


This is one of the most overused romantic phrases in history, and frequently misattributed to Shakespeare's famous tragedy Romeo and Juliet. Yes, we have Shakespeare to thank for providing couples the world over with a way to explain away daft behavior while in the throes of love.



4. "Off with his head" - Richard III, Act III, Scene IV

"Thou art a traitor—Off with his head."


The Queen of Hearts from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland wasn't the only monarch (nor the first) to issue the order: "off with his head". She owes her trademark phrase to Shakespeare's Richard III, who also occasionally enjoyed divorcing heads from bodies.


5. "Kill with kindness" — The Taming of the Shrew, Act IV, Scene I

"This is a way to kill a wife with kindness, and thus I'll curb her mad and headstrong humor."


Some of the characters in Shakespeare's other plays probably could have benefited from taking this advice—I'm looking at you, Hamlet and Macbeth—over killing with weapons and poison. But then, it wouldn't be Shakespeare without at least a little bit of a body count, would it?



6. "The game's afoot" - Henry V, Act II, Scene I

"The game's afoot: follow your spirit, and upon this charge cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'"


Sherlock Holmes may have been the world's first consulting detective, but he wasn't the first to use the iconic phrase, "the game is afoot". Sir Arthur Conan Doyle clearly took a little inspiration from the Bard when penning his detective stories.


7. "Green-eyed monster" - Othello, Act III, Scene III

"O, beware, my lord, of jealousy! It is the green-eyed monster."


We have Shakespeare to thank for making green the color of envy. In his day, green was often associated with illness. The Bard cleverly turned the idea of sickening jealousy into one of the most widely used metaphors in the English language!



8. "I have not slept one wink" - Cymbeline, Act III, Scene IV

"Since I received command to do this business, I have not slept one wink."

In modern vernacular, this phrase has been pared down to: "not slept a wink". We owe it to Shakespeare for coining this phrase in accessible, contemporary (for his time) English. It's now the siren call of students everywhere when studying for finals.



Which of these everyday Shakespeare phrases do you use the most?

Which is your favorite?

Tell us in the comments below!



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