Words that Shakespeare Coined

Elbow. No, not the noun. 😉 That one has obviously been around for a while…from around 1200, as a matter of fact, in Old English. El is the length of the forearm, and bow comes from boga, which means “arch.”

Shakespeare, however, was the first to use it as a verb, which he did in King Lear, Act 4, Scene III.

KENT: A sovereign shame so elbows him: his own unkindness,
That stripp’d her from his benediction, turn’d her
To foreign casualties, gave her dear rights
To his dog-hearted daughters, these things sting
His mind so veomously, that burning shame
Detains him from Cordelia.

Shakespeare was a true master of language, being fluent in seven of them (!); he often created new words for English that came from others, but he also did this sort of thing all the time–taking a noun and turning it into a verb, or vice vera. So no need to get annoyed with people today making up words like “momming,” “adulting,” “mathing,” or the like–it’s a practice as old as language itself! And if Shakespeare can do it… 😉

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