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20 Expressions in the English Language that Originated from Shakespeare

Literature | May 19, 2017

William Shakespeare is one of most famous and arguably greatest writers the world has ever produced. He elevated the English language to such an extent that many words and phrases that were first used in his plays 400 years ago are still used today.

Here are 20 of the most recognizable idiomatic expressions that either originated or were popularised from his plays:


Meaning: If something is ‘the be all and end all’ it is the very best or most important; something so good that it will end the search for something better.


Meaning: If something or someone has ‘come full circle’, they are now at the same as they were at the beginning.


Meaning: There is enough space to move about.


Meaning: Conformity to established rules; upright conduct and equitable conditions.


Meaning: Whilst holding one’s breath


Paraphrased: ‘the stuff that dreams are made of’ in 1941’s The Maltese Falcon.


Meaning: A conclusion already reached; an inevitable result.


Meaning: For a very long time.


Meaning: Something that you say to tell someone that their secret plans or tricks have been discovered and they cannot continue.


Meaning: To be happy that someone or something is gone.


Meaning: If you know something in your heart of hearts, you are certain of it although you might not want to admit it.


Meaning: If you do something enjoyable to your heart’s content, you do it as much as you want to.


Meaning: Something that you say which means that although someone seems to be behaving strangely, there is a reason for their behaviour.


Meaning: You have the ability and the freedom to do exactly what you want.


Meaning: To not have slept at all.


Meaning: To send someone away; to dismiss someone, possibly rudely.


Meaning: A brief period of consideration of a person’s ideas or explanations.


Meaning: A sight that one regrets seeing; someone or something that is unpleasant to look at.


Meaning: To suddenly become impossible to see or find.


Meaning: If you love someone, you cannot see any faults in that person.

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