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Phrases from Shakespeare

135 Phrases coined by William Shakespeare

135 Phrases coined by Shakespeare'William Shakespeare invented more phrases and sayings than anyone else, and most of them are still used today.

He came up with most of them himself, but sometimes he borrowed good lines from others. A few of his most famous phrases were actually popularized by him, rather than invented by him.

Here's a list of well-known expressions that are associated with Shakespeare.

See also: A list of words coined by William Shakespeare

Full list of Shakespearian phrases:

A countenance more in sorrow than in anger

A Daniel come to judgement

A dish fit for the gods

A fool's paradise

A foregone conclusion

A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse

A ministering angel shall my sister be

A plague on both your houses

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

A sea change

A sorry sight

Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio

All corners of the world

All of a sudden

All one to me

All that glitters is not gold / All that glisters is not gold

All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players

All's well that ends well

An ill-favoured thing sir, but mine own

And shining morning face, creeping like a snail unwillingly to school

And thereby hangs a tale

As cold as any stone

As dead as a doornail

As good luck would have it

As merry as the day is long

As pure as the driven snow

At one fell swoop

Bag and baggage

Bated breath

Be all and end all

Beast with two backs

Beware the ides of March

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks

Brevity is the soul of wit

But screw your courage to the sticking-place

But, for my own part, it was Greek to me

Come the three corners of the world in arms

Come what come may

Comparisons are odorous

Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war

Dash to pieces

Discretion is the better part of valour

Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn, and cauldron bubble

Eaten out of house and home

Et tu, Brute

Even at the turning of the tide

Exceedingly well read

Eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog

Fair play

Fancy free

Fie, foh, and fum, I smell the blood of a British man

Fight fire with fire

For ever and a day

Frailty, thy name is woman

Foul play

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears

Good men and true

Good riddance

Green-eyed monster

Hark, hark! the lark at heaven's gate sings

He will give the Devil his due

Heart's content

High time

His beard was as white as snow


Hoist by your own petard


Household words

How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child

I bear a charmed life

I have not slept one wink

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips

I will wear my heart upon my sleeve

If music be the food of love, play on

In a pickle

In my mind's eye, Horatio

In stitches

In the twinkling of an eye

Is this a dagger which I see before me?

It beggar'd all description

It is meat and drink to me

Lay it on with a trowel

Lie low

Like the Dickens


Love is blind

Make an ass of yourself

Make your hair stand on end

Men's evil manners live in brass; their virtues we write in water

Milk of human kindness

Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows

More fool you

More honoured in the breach than in the observance

Much ado about nothing

My salad days

Neither a borrower nor a lender be

Night owl

No more cakes and ale?

Now is the winter of our discontent

O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo

Off with his head

Oh, that way madness lies

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more

Out of the jaws of death

Pomp and circumstance

Pound of flesh

Primrose path

Rhyme nor reason

Salad days

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything

Screw your courage to the sticking place

Sea change

Seen better days

Send him packing

Set your teeth on edge

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Short shrift

Shuffle off this mortal coil

Sleep like a top

Smooth runs the water where the brook is deep

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark

Son of a bitch

Star-crossed lovers

Stiffen the sinews


Such stuff as dreams are made on

Tell truth and shame the Devil!

That way madness lies

The be all and end all

The course of true love never did run smooth

The crack of doom

The Devil incarnate

The game is afoot

The game is up

The quality of mercy is not strained

The Queen's English

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune

The smallest worm will turn, being trodden on

There's method in my madness

Thereby hangs a tale

Thin air

This is the short and the long of it

This is very midsummer madness

This precious stone set in the silver sea, this sceptered isle

Though this be madness, yet there is method in it

The bowels of the land

To be or not to be, that is the question

To gild refined gold, to paint the lily

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub

Tom, Dick and Harry

Too much of a good thing

Truth will out

Under the greenwood tree

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown

Vanish into thin air

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers

We have seen better days

Wear your heart on your sleeve

What a piece of work is man

What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet

When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions

Where the bee sucks, there suck I

Which is which

While you live, tell truth and shame the Devil!

Who wooed in haste, and means to wed at leisure

Wild goose chase

Woe is me

Shakespeare's phrases grouped by play:

A Midsummer Night's Dream
As You Like It

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

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