Monday, April 20, 2015


When we say that something is not for the “faint hearted” or is a “foregone conclusion” or is taking “forever and a day,” we rarely stop to consider where the phrase came from. But it had to come from somewhere, right? And more often than not, William Shakespeare—who would be turning 450 years old on April 23—is probably the guy.

The Immortal Bard coined so many phrases that he actually had a significant impact on the English language. It’s one of many reasons why he is far and away the paragon of English literature. The Beatles transformed rock and roll. Michael Jordan elevated basketball. Marlon Brando altered acting. But nobody comes close to the impact of Shakespeare.

This installment of the Why Not 100 celebrates just 97 of the MANY phrases first attributed to the literary genius, starting with some of our favorites:

1. The world’s my oyster (The Merry Wives of Windor)
2. Be-all and the end-all (Macbeth)
3. It was Greek to me (Julius Caesar)
4. There’s the rub (Hamlet)
5. Knock knock! Who’s there? (Macbeth)
6. Bated breath (The Merchant of Venice)
7. ‘Tis high time (Comedy of Errors)
      8. Into thin air (The Tempest)
9. One fell swoop (Macbeth)
10. In a pickle (The Tempest)

11. Heart of gold (Henry V)
12. Good riddance (Troilus and Cressida)
13. A sorry sight (Macbeth)
14. Naked truth (Love’s Labours Lost)
15. What the dickens (The Merry Wives of Windsor)
16. Foregone conclusion (Othello)
17. Cold comfort (The Taming of the Shrew)
18. Not slept one wink (Cymbeline)
19. Full Circle (King Lear)
20. Wear my heart upon my sleeve (Othello)


21. Sea change (The Tempest)
22. Kill with kindness (The Taming of the Shrew)
23. Lie Low (Much Ado About Nothing)
24. Neither rhyme nor reason (As You Like It)
25. Pomp and circumstance (Othello)
26. Household words (Henry V)
27. Too much of a good thing (As You Like It)
28. Tower of strength (Richard III)
29. Forever and a day (As You Like It)
30. Wild-goose chase (Romeo and Juliet)

31. For goodness’ sake (Henry VIII)
32. Crack of doom (Macbeth)
33. Refuse to budge an inch (Measure for Measure)
34. A charmed life (Macbeth)
35. Brave new world (The Tempest)
36. Dog will have his day (Hamlet)
37. Out of the jaws of death (Twelfth Night)
38. Hoist with his own petard (Hamlet)
39. The game is afoot (Henry IV)
40. Break the ice (The Taming of the Shrew)

41. Star-crossed lovers (Romeo and Juliet)
42. Dead as a doornail (Henry VI)
43. Salad days (Antony and Cleopatra)
44. Own flesh and blood (Hamlet)
45. Play fast and loose (King John)
46. Live long day (Julius Caesar)
47. Devil incarnate (Titus Andronicus)
48. Trippingly on the tongue (Hamlet)
49. Snail paced (Troilus and Cressida)

50. What’s done is done (Macbeth)
51. Truth will out (The Merchant of Venice)
52. This mortal coil (Hamlet)
53. Faint hearted (Henry VI)
54. Sound and fury (Macbeth)
55. In my heart of hearts (Hamlet)
56. Pound of flesh (The Merchant of Venice)
57. Set my teeth on edge (Henry IV)
58. Itching palm (Julius Caesar)
59. In my mind’s eye (Hamlet)

60. Pitched battle (The Taming of the Shrew)
61. Breathed his last (Henry VI)
62. Flaming youth (Hamlet)
63. Infinite variety (Antony and Cleopatra)
64. Lean and hungry look (Julius Caesar)
65. Spotless reputation (Richard II)
66. To thine own self be true (Hamlet)
67. What’s in a name? (Romeo and Juliet)
68. Stony hearted (Henry IV)

69. Primrose path (Hamlet)
70. Working-day world (As You Like It)
71. All our yesterdays (Macbeth)
72. Make short shrift (Richard III)
73. Towering passion (Hamlet)
74. Once more into the breach (Henry V)
75. Come what come may (Macbeth)
76. Though this be madness, yet there is method in it (Hamlet)
77. Eaten me out of house and home (Henry IV)
78. Give the devil his due (Henry IV)
79. The short and the long of it (The Merry Wives of Windsor)

80. What’s past is prologue (The Tempest)
81. Milk of human kindness (Macbeth)
82. All that glitters is not gold (The Merchant of Venice)
83. Ill wind which blows (Henry IV)
84. Beggar all description (Antony and Cleopatra)
85. Such stuff as dreams are made on (The Tempest)
86. Witching time of night (Hamlet)
87. Smooth runs the water where the brook is deep (Henry VI)
88. (Obvious) as a nose on a man’s face (The Two Gentlemen of Verona)

89. Neither a borrower nor a lender be (Hamlet)
90. What fools these mortals be (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
91. The better part of valor is discretion (Henry IV)
92. In my book of memory (Henry VI)
93. A plague on both your houses (Romeo and Juliet)
94. Brevity is the soul of wit (Hamlet)
95. Much ado about nothing (title)
96. Parting is such sweet sorrow (Romeo and Juliet)
97. Love is blind (The Merchant of Venice)

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