Phrases You Probably Didn’t Know Came From Shakespeare

Shakespeare was a clever dude. If you are a modern-day poet or a lover of theatre you probably recognise his obvious genius. If you are struggling to wrap your head around his language as a teen at school you probably want to smash him in the mouth. Either way his influence on modern language is dramatic. Here are some phrases you may not have known came from the bard.

Break the ice

Without Shakespeare we might not have a phrase to describe breaking awkward situations. Now that would be awkward.

All that glitters isn’t gold

Be careful not to be fooled! This “golden” phrase appeared in The Merchant of Venice, although a variation was coined by Chaucer.


Ah the cheek of William inventing such a phrase! See what I did there? Yeah, okay, I’ll leave the wit to the bard.

Be all and end all

When something means the world to you, what better way to describe it. Ah Shakespeare giving us clichés since 1616

Catch a cold

This has become so engrained in our consciousness that it’s hard to believe that it came from one of his lesser known plays, Cymbeline.

Clothes make the man

Another classic phrase that has permeated our modern day vernacular. Unfortunately he did not invent “dress for business, do the business” but if he were alive today I’m sure he’s love it.

Dog will have his day

This is most often spoken as “every dog has his day” in the modern world and means that even the untalented occasionally shine.

Eat out of house and home

My mother used to use this phrase to describe me and my brother, wonder if she knew she was quoting Shakespeare.

Give the devil his due

Ironically you could apply this phrase to William himself for his masterful command of the English language. Yeah, I’m a fan.

Green eyed monster

This classic was used in Othello to describe someone overtaken by jealousy.

Heart of gold

This classic phrase describes someone who is kind hearted. So great is it that it is difficult to imagine a better phrase to replace it with.


We have all felt this. The perfect way of describing the gut wrenching sadness that comes with grief.


Although technically he said hot-bloodied, but it still counts. We all know what he meant.

It’s Greek to me

Ironically used in a play about Romans! Meaning it is all a bit hard to understand.

Method in his madness

I have heard this phrase so many times in my life. Used to describe someone whose methods are questionable but who seems to get results.

Mind’s eye

This beautiful piece of figurative language has been used by countless writers over the centuries and can be attributed to Shakespeare.

One fell swoop

I still have no idea what a fell swoop is. But I hear the phrase so often that I get the context and that’s all that really matters.

The course of true love never did run smooth

Not only was the bard articulate but he was relatable too. This still holds true in the modern world.


The lady doth protest too much

This has become the nation’s most popular description of Theresa May. I’m kidding. We love Theresa.

The game is afoot

Contrary to popular belief this wasn’t coined by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle! Sorry Sherlock.

The milk of human kindness

Hailing from Macbeth it was an allusion to the goodness of motherhood.

Too much of a good thing

Anyone who claims you can have too much of a good thing hasn’t tried Wetherspoons cocktails.

Wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve

A lovely idiom to describe somebody who is forthright with their emotions.

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