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I was cruising the JREF forums, and while I am very familiar with many of the phrases he coined and popularized in the English language, a post makes the claim.

Shakespeare coined about two thousand words. Most English speaking people quote Shakespeare >>at least once a day without knowing it.

yup....'bedroom', 'assassination', 'bump', 'road' to list a few. actually, the bard is credited with about 1700 words, added to the English lexicon.

While not "skeptical" per se of the claim, I would like to see it verified. My google fu turned up more "Shakespeare didn't write his stuff" nonsense than verification of this claim. And I figured it would be of interest to the community.

Is Shakespeare responsible for introducing about 1700 new words to the English language?

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    There was book a while back called Coined by Shakespeare that explained in detail what words Shakespeare created or repurposed. The number they gave was 1500, including the repurposed ones. – Scott Hamilton Apr 18 '11 at 23:22
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    Note that this question was asked and answered at the English StackExchange. (IMO, that demonstrates how Skepticism really has a huge problem in defining its scope...) – Uticensis Apr 19 '11 at 1:52
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    Well, what do you know! I am not part of that StackExchange, so I had no idea. Is there a StackExchange thing that searches out the same question (like Digg does with submissions)? – Larian LeQuella Apr 19 '11 at 2:08
  • When I put "1700 new words" in the search box at stackexchange.com I found the question. Also with "shakespeare invented." – ghoppe Apr 19 '11 at 2:15
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    I was originally posting behind a corporate proxy. Search didn't work there. :( Thanks for the info. – Larian LeQuella Apr 19 '11 at 2:20
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As answered at English StackExchange (Direct Quote from the link, the first part being the relevant part):

This was on my list of questions to ask at this site! I don't have an answer but I do have some thoughts and further questions.

Most of these words seem to be variants. If you look at the list here at Words Shakespeare invented, most of these are variations. For example amazement is a variant of amaze. It’s a little more credible to vary an existing word than introduce a completely new one. Also could it be true that there was a lot more improvisation in the language generally at the time due to the lack of a literate populace and established written standards and dictionaries.

First to use in print isn't the same as invent If this was the dawn of English language publishing then presumably Shakespeare was just in the right place at the right time for be the first to print with many English Words.

What of Shakespeare's Rivals? If Shakespeare was in the right place at the right time then so surely were Marlowe and Jonson - I haven't seen similar claims for them.

Does every language have its Shakespeare? I've heard Luther being called the father of German. Would Homer be the same for Ancent Greek? What about other languages?

  • Great answer about first in print versus inventing. The earliest known f-bomb in print may be from 1310 (also see this from 1528), but the word is almost certainly much older. – Robert Columbia Jun 27 '17 at 13:36

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