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Skip to 0 minutes and 14 seconds Now the interesting thing about Shakespeare is, it’s been argued, that he often uses two words like pomp and circumstance. That’s an expression from Shakespeare that’s entered the English language. Pomp and circumstance– that’s two words basically explaining the same thing with a very slight difference. It’s been argued that Shakespeare was writing, not only for a heightened, courtly audience, he was also writing for a more simple audience of journeymen. He was writing for everybody in Elizabethan society. So he also used quite common words– words that were more easily understood. And that way, he made everybody understand. So I think, even in Shakespeare’s time, he understood that not everybody was understanding everything at every given moment, but the general sense comes over you.

Skip to 1 minute and 1 second We know that it would appear that he invented a lot of words. It’s debatable how many of the words he invented and how many of the words are just the first time we see them written down. But he obviously had confidence to be introducing new words to his audience, because they were ready to try and understand.

Shakespeare's words

Watch James Garnon talking about some words and phrases which became popular because of Shakespeare’s plays and are still in use today.

As James says, it’s uncertain exactly how many words and phrases that entered the English language were invented by Shakespeare. In the next step we’ll look at some words we think he did invent.

How have new words entered your language? Is there a famous writer who has introduced new words in the way that Shakespeare introduced words to English?

Share any examples you have.

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This video is from the free online course:

Exploring English: Shakespeare

British Council