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English Phrases From Shakespeare

June 22nd, 2010

The English language has many common phrases that supposedly originate from popular English authors in European and American history. One popular English language author who is known for writing plays for theater is historically called Shakespeare. Many historians today consider it likely that a group of people actually wrote the various plays that were supposedly authored by a person named Shakespeare, as there is not enough historical evidence to show that Shakespeare actually wrote all of the plays. It is also not historically confirmed if Shakespeare actually invented some of the phrases in the plays or only made the phrases more popular. Regardless of who wrote the plays and who invented the common phrases used in the plays, there are many Shakespearean phrases that are still commonly used in English conversation and literature. Here are some of the phrases and their meanings.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

This is an interesting phrase for English language students to know. The commonly known phrase is used to say that a name is not really important. Something that is named one word could just as easily be named another word, but it would not change the thing which it is naming. A flower could be called “rose” or “Juliet” and it would still be the same flower. For instance, “The girl’s name is Sam, but a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

“Household words”

The short phrase “household word” is a common term used for popularly known people, places, or things. A popular playwright’s name, such as “Shakespeare”, is a “household word” due to an abundance of international popularity. A brand such as “Toyota” is also a common household word. Basically anything in popular media that is commonly known by most people in an area would be considered a household word. For instance, “The singer is so popular that his name is a household word.”

“I haven’t slept a wink.”

This is a common phrase that is used to say that a person speaking hasn’t slept at all the previous night. The phrase refers to the closing of one eye, which is known as a “wink.” If someone hasn’t closed one eye the previous night, then they likely have not slept yet. For instance, “I was working all night, so I haven’t slept a wink.”

“In the twinkling of an eye”
This is a commonly known phrase that was popularized by one of Shakespeare’s plays. A “twinkling of an eye” is basically how long it takes for an eye to wink or eyes to blink. Since a twinkle is usually very quick, the phrase is used to say that an action is occurring very quickly. For instance, “The race car drove past in the twinkling of an eye.”

“All is well that ends well”

This common phrase is also commonly “All’s well that ends well” and is used when talking about a potentially shaky process that actually completes as hoped or better. While the process may have been shaky, the good result is what is important and only good will be remembered. For instance, “We drove around for half an hour, but we still arrived at the perfect moment. All’s well that ends well. “
Hopefully this has been an enjoyable introduction to some common Shakespearean phrases.