Common Shakesperian Words

Common Words & Phrases
in Shakespeare's World


Please contact me if you would like other words or phrases included.

Common Pronouns, Verbs and Prepositions

thou = you (subject, singular, informal) e.g. "Thou wast in the next room."

ye = you (subject, plural) e.g. "Ye all came forth from the room."

thee = you (object... "to you" ) e.g. "I saw thee in the other room."

thine or thy = your (possessive, singular) e.g. "That is thy room."

art = are

dost = do

doth = does

'ere = before

hast = have

'tis = it is

'twas = it was

wast = were

whence = from where

wherefore = why




hence = from here

oft = often

yea = even

ay = yes

aught = anything

yon, yonder = that one there

would (he were) = I wish (he were)

marry = (a mild swear word)

nay = no

hie = hurry


acknown: aware. [Othello]

adventure my discretion: risk my reputation. [The Tempest]

aery: nest. [Hamlet]

affectioned: affected, one who puts on airs. [Twelfth Night]

affections swayed: passions ruled. [Julius Caesar]

against the hair: or, as we say, "against the grain," a metaphor from brushing the hair of an animal the opposite way to which it lies. [Romeo and Juliet]

agnize: acknowledge. [Othello]

aimed so near: guessed as much. [Romeo and Juliet]

alarum'd: summoned to action. [Macbeth]

alike bewitched: each of them equally enchanted. [Romeo and Juliet]

all exercise: i.e., all their habitual activity. [The Tempest]

ambition: for the Elizabethans the word had the special meaning of unscrupulous pursuit of power. [Julius Caesar]

amerce: punish. [Romeo and Juliet]

Anon, anon: In a moment! [Macbeth]

anters: caves. [Othello]

a patient list: the limits of patience. [Othello]

apparent prodigies: wonders that have appeared. [Julius Caesar]

argal: therefore. [Hamlet]

aroint thee: begone. [King Lear]

arrant: out-and-out. [Hamlet]

arras: tapestry, commonly hung in medieval castles from ceiling to floor for the prevention of drafts. [Hamlet]

as thou list: any way you like. [The Tempest]

asquint: crookedly, falsely. [King Lear]

atomies: miniature beings. [Romeo and Juliet]

augurers: priests who interpreted omens. [Julius Caesar]

auspicious mistress: as a favorable influence. [King Lear]



bastinado: thrashing or cudgeling. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

batten: glut yourself. [Hamlet]

bawbling: small. [Twelfth Night]

bawcock: fine fellow. [Twelfth Night]

bawd: go-between a man and a woman. [Romeo and Juliet]

bear hard: bear a grudge against. [Julius Caesar]

beetles o'er: overhangs. [Hamlet]

beggarly account: very small number. [Romeo and Juliet]

behoveful: necessary. [Romeo and Juliet]

beldams: hags. [Macbeth]

belike: probably. [King Lear]

berattle: abuse. [Hamlet]

beshrew: a curse, plague upon. [Hamlet]; blame. [Romeo and Juliet] confound. [Twelfth Night]

betid: happened. [The Tempest]

betimes: at once. [Julius Caesar]

betoken: indicate. [Hamlet]

bewray: reveal. [King Lear]

biddy: common name for a hen. [Twelfth Night]

bilboes: fetters. [Hamlet]

bird of night: the owl. [Julius Caesar]

bite my thumb: an insulting gesture in Shakespeare's time. [Romeo and Juliet]

bite thee by the ear: a term of endearment, not of assault. [Romeo and Juliet]

blasted: barren. [Macbeth]

blazon: proclamation (like a coat-of-arms, or possibly, a triumphant blast on the trumpet). [Twelfth Night]

blinking idiot: that is, a fool's head. [The Merchant of Venice]

bodements: prophecies. [Macbeth]

bodkin: dagger. [Hamlet]

bombard: leather bottle. [The Tempest]

bootless: useless. [King Lear]; vainly. [Julius Caesar]

bosky: wooded. [The Tempest]

bowers: glades. [Twelfth Night]

brach: hound bitch. [King Lear]

brainsickly: foolishly. [Macbeth]

bray out: celebrate. [Hamlet]

break his day: fail to pay on the prescribed day. [The Merchant of Venice]

break with: break our news to, discuss. [Julius Caesar]

brief candle: life is compared to a candle flame. [Macbeth]

bring the device to the bar: bring the trick out into the open, to be judged (a flavor of the law is in these words). [Twelfth Night]

brock: badger or skunk. [Twelfth Night]

broken sinews: racked nerves. [King Lear]

bruit: echo. [Hamlet]

buckler: shield. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

busky: bushy. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

but soft: slowly. [Julius Caesar]


caitiff: wretch (term of endearment). [Othello]

caliver: light kind of musket or harquebus introduced during the 16th century; it seems to have been the lightest portable fire-arm, except the pistol, and was fired without a "rest." [King Henry IV, Part 1]

callet: whore. [Othello]

cank'red, cankered: rusty, malignant (a canker is a bud-destroying worm; hence cancer). [Romeo and Juliet]

cantons: love songs (cantos). [Twelfth Night]

cap-a-pe: fully armed from head to foot. [Hamlet]

carded: mixed with something base. The word was in use from 1590 to 1635 for mixing different kinds of drink. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

carrion men: decaying corpses. [Julius Caesar]

carrions: living carcasses. [Julius Caesar]

cashiered: dismissed (but not necessarily without honor). [Othello]

casing: all-embracing. [Macbeth]

catch: musical round. [Twelfth Night]

cater-cousins: close friends. [The Merchant of Venice]

caterwauling: making a wailing noise like a cat. From Middle English cat + wawen, to wail (an onomatopoetic word, whose sound echoes its meaning). [Twelfth Night]

cautel: craft. [Hamlet]

cerecloth: shroud. [The Merchant of Venice]

cerements: winding-sheets, shroud. [Hamlet]

certes: assuredly. [Othello]

chafing with: beating on. [Julius Caesar]

chalked forth: indicated the direction. [The Tempest]

champain: flat, open country. [Twelfth Night]

changed eyes: fallen in love; the phrase, arising from the exchange of amorous glances, was a common Elizabethan one. [The Tempest]

chaps: jaws. [Macbeth]

charactery: what is written upon, i.e., the meaning. [Julius Caesar]

chariest: most modest and virtuous. [Hamlet]

charmingly: for the Elizabethans the word "charm" usually carried a reference to magic, as it does here. [The Tempest]

checking at: swerving aside from. [Hamlet]

cheveril glove: kid leather (easily stretchable). [Twelfth Night]

chinks: cash (from the clatter of the coins). [Romeo and Juliet]

chop-logic: one who bandies logic; one who exchanges trivial points of logic. [Romeo and Juliet]

chopt: chapped. [Julius Caesar]

chough: jackdaw (i.e., a chatterer). [Hamlet]

Christian cursy: Christian charity. [The Merchant of Venice]

civet: perfume. [King Lear]

clepe: call. [Hamlet]; "clept." [Macbeth]

climatures: regions. [Hamlet]

clodpole: blockhead. [Twelfth Night]

cobbler: this means bungler as well as shoemaker. [Julius Caesar]

cockatrices: mythological creatures, half serpent, half cockerel, famed for killing at a glance. [Twelfth Night]

collied: darkened. [Othello]

collier: coal-miner. [Twelfth Night]

Colossus: the huge statue of Apollo at the harbour of Rhodes. It was erroneously thought that its legs spanned the harbour entrance. [Julius Caesar]

colour: excuse. [Julius Caesar]

common proof: common experience. [Julius Caesar]

compass: bring about. [Twelfth Night]

compliment extern: outward appearance. [Othello]

comptible: sensitive. [Twelfth Night]

concave shores: overhanging banks. [Julius Caesar]

conceit: imaginings, nightmares. [Romeo and Juliet]

condition: constitution, state of mind. [Julius Caesar]

contagious blastments: destructive blights. [Hamlet]

contemned love: love that is given but not returned. [Twelfth Night]

continuate: uninterrupted. [Othello]

contracted bachelors: young men who are engaged to be married and whose banns are being called in church. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

corky: dry with age. [King Lear]

coronets: small crown, or perhaps a laurel wreath. [Julius Caesar]

corse: body. [Hamlet]; corpse. [Romeo and Juliet]

court of guard: headquarters. [Othello]

coxcomb: a fool's cap, often with a cock's comb attached to the top. [King Lear]

coystrill: knave or base fellow. [Twelfth Night]

cozen: cheat. [The Merchant of Venice]

cozier: cobbler. [Twelfth Night]

crickets cry: thought of as an omen of death. [Macbeth]

crisped: curly. [The Merchant of Venice]

crochets: whims. [Romeo and Juliet]

crossed: opposed. [Julius Caesar]

crowner: coroner (one who conducts inquests). [Twelfth Night]

crush a cup: a common colloquial expression in Elizabethan English comparable to "crack open a bottle." [Romeo and Juliet]

cry you mercy: beg your pardon. [Othello]

cubiculo: room, chamber. [Twelfth Night]

cullionly barbermonger: rascal who goes too often to the barber. [King Lear]

cursy: curtsey, bow. [The Merchant of Venice]

cut-purse: thief. [Hamlet]




dallying: fondling one another. [Hamlet]

date is out, the: it is no longer the fashion. [Romeo and Juliet]

dateless: everlasting. [Romeo and Juliet]

daws: jackdaws, or fools. [Othello]

dear account: sad reckoning. In Elizabethan English the word "dear" intensified the meaning -- you could have a "dear friend" and a "dear enemy." [Romeo and Juliet]

death's-head: skull. [The Merchant of Venice]

denotement: careful observation. [Othello]

dilate: tell fully. [Othello]

dismount thy tuck: take thy rapier out of its scabbard or sheath. [Twelfth Night]

dissemble: deceive. [Twelfth Night]

distaff: the spinning staff, and hence symbol of the woman. [King Lear]

distemperature: illness or other physical disorder. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

do my duties: voice my loyalty. [Othello]

dog at: clever at. [Twelfth Night]

doit: cheap coin. [The Merchant of Venice]

dormouse valour: small amount of bravery. [Twelfth Night]

doublet: lined jacket. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

doves: the Chariot of Venus was drawn by doves, which were sacred to her. [Romeo and Juliet]

down-gyved: fallen, like shackles, about the ankles. [Hamlet]

drabbing: associating with prostitutes. [Hamlet]

dram: small amount. [Twelfth Night]

dropping fire: thunderbolts. [Julius Caesar]

drops of sorrow: tears. [Macbeth]

drossy: frivolous. [Hamlet]

dry sorrow (drinks our blood): another old belief, that sorrow caused people to go pale through lack of blood. [Romeo and Juliet]

dudgeon: handle. [Macbeth]

dunnest: darkest. [Macbeth]

dun's the mouse: a slang Elizabethan phrase meaning "Keep quiet." [Romeo and Juliet]

dupp'd: opened. [Hamlet]

dwell on form: do the proper thing (in the formal, conventional way). [Romeo and Juliet]





eanlings: lambs. [The Merchant of Venice]

Egyptian: gypsy. [Othello]

elflocks: when dirty hair became clotted together it was superstitiously put down to elves, hence "elflocks." [Romeo and Juliet]

eliads: from the French "oeillades," amorous glances. [King Lear]

Elysium: paradise (Illyria). [Twelfth Night]

embowell'd: embalmed. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

encave: hide. [Othello]

enchafed: angry. [Othello]

endues: brings. [Othello]

engluts: devours. [Othello]

ensteeped: submerged. [Othello]

envy: hatred. [The Tempest]; malice. [Julius Caesar]

enwheel: encompass. [Othello]

erns: grieves. [Julius Caesar]

Ethiop's: Negro, as used by Shakespeare, not Ethiopian in its narrower sense. [Romeo and Juliet]

extravagant and erring: vagrant and wandering (both used in original Latin sense, a common device of Shakespeare). [Hamlet]

extremities: extremes of power. [Julius Caesar]

eyeless: invisible. [King Lear]

eyes' windows: eyelids (shutters). [Romeo and Juliet]




fable: palm of the hand. [The Merchant of Venice]

factious: active. [Julius Caesar]

fadge: fall into place. [Twelfth Night]

fain: glad, gladly, willingly. [King Lear] [Romeo and Juliet] [Hamlet]

fall off: become a rebel or traitor. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

falling sickness: epilepsy. [Julius Caesar]

Falls purpose: is close to the truth. [Julius Caesar]

fashion: shape to our purpose. [Julius Caesar]

fat: amiable and satisfied. [Julius Caesar]

Fates: in classical mythology, the three goddesses who directed human destinies. [Julius Caesar]

favour: feature. [Julius Caesar]

feather-bed: i.e.. marriage. [The Merchant of Venice]

festinate: speedy. [King Lear]

fetches: excuses. [King Lear]

fia: forward! (from the Italian via.) [The Merchant of Venice]

Fie: interjection expressing sense of outraged propriety. [Hamlet]

figures: fantasies. [Julius Caesar]

fleer: scorn, or mock at. [Romeo and Juliet]

fleering: the Elizabethan meaning combined our "fawning" and "sneering." [Julius Caesar]

Flibbertigibbet: the name of a devil; here and later Shakespeare takes the names of his devils -- Smulkin, Modo -- from a book by Samuel Harsnett published in 1603. The names also give the effect of the devils, fiends and goblins of folk mythology, which would come naturally to Tom o' Bedlam. [King Lear]

flirt-gills: loose women. "Gill" was a familiar or contemptuous term for a girl (as "Jack" for a boy). [Romeo and Juliet]

flote: flood, and hence also sea. [The Tempest]

flowerets: young men in the flower of their manhood. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

flung out: kicked and plunged wildly. [Macbeth]

fobbed: cheated. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

foison: harvest, abundance. [The Tempest]

fools' zanies: clowns' assistants. [Twelfth Night]

fopped: duped. [Othello]

fordid: destroyed. [King Lear]; destroys. [Othello]

forks: legs. [King Lear]

formal constancy: steadfast self-possession. [Julius Caesar]

four elements: earth, air, fire, and water: The Elizabethans believed that humanity was made up of various combinations of these four elements. The theory of humours was based upon this theory. [Twelfth Night]

franklin: yeoman farmer or holder of the freehold to a property. These men were in effect landed gentry. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

frieze: rough cloth. [Othello]

frippery: old-clothes shop. [The Tempest]

from the main: not the strong. [Julius Caesar]

fulsome: fat. [The Merchant of Venice]

fust: grow moldy. [Hamlet]

fustian: bombastic, ridiculously pompous (when used as an adjective). [Twelfth Night]




gage: to bind as by oath or promise; to pledge. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

gaged: indebted. [The Merchant of Venice]; pledged. [Hamlet]

gallow: frighten. [King Lear]

galls his kibe: steps on (scrapes) his heel. [Hamlet]

gamesome: sportive. [Julius Caesar]

gaskins: breeches. [Twelfth Night]

gasted: frightened (as in "aghast"). [King Lear]

gauntlet: armored glove flung down as a challenge. [King Lear]

gentle: noble, or well-born; mild or amiable. [Julius Caesar]

get the start: i.e., a head start; the metaphor from the running of a race is carried on in the victor's "palm" in the next line. [Julius Caesar]

gib: tomcat. [Hamlet]

give him o'er: leave someone alone. [The Tempest]

glazed: a combination of glared and gazed. [Julius Caesar]

gleek: jest, mock. [Romeo and Juliet]

goatish: the goat was frequently used to represent lechery by the Elizabethans. [King Lear]

God-den: good evening, a contraction of the fuller "God give you a good even." [Romeo and Juliet]

goodyears: the word is usually taken to refer to the forces of evil, in accordance with the folk tradition of calling evil spirits by innocent names, e.g., "little people" for "goblins." [King Lear]

goose: tailor's iron. [Macbeth]

gouts: drops. [Macbeth]

grace for grace: favor in return for favor. [Romeo and Juliet]

gramercy: many thanks. [The Merchant of Venice]

great wheel: the wheel of Fortune, and the great man (King Lear) in decline. [King Lear]

green sour ringlets: fairy rings formed by toadstools. [The Tempest]

grise: degree. [Othello]

grizzled: gray. [Hamlet]

gross and scope: general conclusion. [Hamlet]

gross in sense: perfectly clear. [Othello]

groundings: the poorer and less critical section of the audience who stood in the pit. [Hamlet]

gudgeon: a fish. [The Merchant of Venice]

gull: deceive and trick. [Twelfth Night]

guttered: jagged. [Othello]




hams: knees. [Romeo and Juliet]

haply: perhaps. [Hamlet]

hard construction: uncharitable interpretation. [Twelfth Night]

hardiment: hard blows. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

harpy: a mythical beast having the head of a woman and the body, wings, and talons of an eagle: supposed to act as an agent of vengeance. [The Tempest]

hart: deer, with a pun on heart. [Julius Caesar]

have at thee: on guard! [Romeo and Juliet]

have old: have a great deal of trouble (a slang term). [Macbeth]

hearts of controversy: in rivalry. [Julius Caesar]

heath: a waste tract of land. [Macbeth]

heat-oppressed: capable of being handled. [Macbeth]

heave the gorge: become nauseated. [Othello]

heavy summons: a feeling of heavy drowsiness. [Macbeth]

heir-apparent: next in line to the throne. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

hests: commands. [The Tempest]

hie: hurry. [Julius Caesar]

high-lone: quite alone. [Romeo and Juliet]

high-sighted: ambitious. [Julius Caesar]

hilding: a good-for-nothing. [Romeo and Juliet]

hinds: deer. [Julius Caesar]

hit together: agree. [King Lear]

hob, nob: hit or miss. [Twelfth Night]

hold carelessly: think little of someone. [Romeo and Juliet]

holidam: originally the holy relics upon which oaths were sworn; by the late 16th century this word was used as a weak asseveration or mild oath. [Romeo and Juliet]

holp: archaic form of helped. [Romeo and Juliet]

horned man's: cuckold's. [Othello]

housewives: hussies. [Othello]

hugger-mugger: secret haste. [Hamlet]

humour: feeling (of fear); to persuade by flattery; or a mood, temperament, or mist. [Julius Caesar]

hunts-up: originally the sound that roused huntsmen, this expression means any morning greeting. [Romeo and Juliet]

hurlyburly: the noise and confusion of battle. [Macbeth]

husbandry: thrift. [Hamlet]




ides: the 15th day of the month. [Julius Caesar]

ill-divining: foreboding evil. [Romeo and Juliet]

Illyria: a mythical land somewhere in the Mediterranean. [Twelfth Night]

impawn'd pledged. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

import: concern. [Othello]

in scarlet, to be: blush. [Romeo and Juliet]

incarnadine: turn blood-red. [Macbeth]

indign: unworthy. [Othello]

ingraft: habitual. [Othello]

ingrafted: deep-rooted. [Julius Caesar]

insuppressive: unsuppressable, indomitable. [Julius Caesar]

intentively: with full attention. [Othello]

intermit: hold off. [Julius Caesar]

inurn'd: buried. [Hamlet]




Jacks: fellows (contemptuous). [The Merchant of Venice]

jaunce: trudging about. [Romeo and Juliet]

jaundice: a symptom of violent passion. [The Merchant of Venice]

jealous: in the sense of suspicious. [Julius Caesar]

jointress: partner. [Hamlet]

Jove: King of the Roman gods. [Romeo and Juliet]

jowls: bumps. [Hamlet]




kisses Emilia: the usual Renaissance form of social courtesy. [Othello]

knapped: knocked. [King Lear]; nibbled. [The Merchant of Venice]

knits up: straightens out. [Macbeth]

knotted and combined locks: i.e., lying together in a mass. [Hamlet]




ladybird: a term of endearment, similar to "lamb." [Romeo and Juliet]

lay-to: use. [The Tempest]

lazar-like: like leprosy. [Hamlet]

leasing: the power of telling lies. [Twelfth Night]

leman: sweetheart. [Twelfth Night]

lethe: in classical mythology Lethe was a river in Hades, the waters of which induced forgetfulness. Here the association is with death generally. [Julius Caesar]

lief: soon. [Hamlet]

liver: the Elizabethans considered the liver to be the seat of the emotions. [The Merchant of Venice]

liver, brain, and heart: the liver vied with the heart as the seat of the bodily passions in the Elizabethan physiology; the brain was to control the exercise of both the affections and the passions. [Twelfth Night]

livings: possessions. [The Merchant of Venice]

loath: reluctant. [Twelfth Night]

loggerheads: numbskulls. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

long-ingraffed: long-standing. [King Lear]

lown: rascal. [Othello]

lym: bloodhound. [King Lear]




magnificoes: magnates, great men. [The Merchant of Venice]

maidenhead: virginity. [Twelfth Night]

make shift: be able to, manage. [The Merchant of Venice]

makes dainty: comes shyly. [Romeo and Juliet]

malapert: impertinent. [Twelfth Night]

marchpane: confectionery made of almond paste, sugar, and marzipan. [Romeo and Juliet]

marry: an oath, by (the Virgin) Mary! but in effect no stronger than "indeed." [Romeo and Juliet] [Julius Caesar]

masterless: abandoned. [Romeo and Juliet]

maugre: despite (Fr. malgre). [Twelfth Night] [King Lear]

mazzard: head. [Othello]

meet: proper. [Julius Caesar]

meetest: fittest. [The Merchant of Venice]

meiny: followers, attendants. [King Lear]

memento mori: reminder of death (usually a skull). [King Henry IV, Part 1]

meshes: net. [The Merchant of Venice]

mewed up to her heaviness: encased in her grief. [Romeo and Juliet]

micher: truant (our colloquial word "moocher" is derived from this). [King Henry IV, Part 1]

miching mallecho: slinking mischief. [Hamlet]

might not but: must. [Othello]

minion: darling, favorite. [Macbeth]

misprision: misunderstanding. [Twelfth Night]

moe: more. [Julius Caesar] [The Merchant of Venice]

moiety competent: sufficient portion. [Hamlet]

moo: more. [Othello]

mooncalf: monstrosity. [The Tempest]

mortal arbitrament: settle a dispute by duelling to the death of one contestant. [Twelfth Night]

motion of the liver: the liver was regarded as the seat of the passions. [Twelfth Night]

mountebanks: charlatans who sell quack medicine. [Othello]

mouse-hunt: one who runs after women. [Romeo and Juliet]

mow: make faces. [The Tempest]

much ado: much trouble, fuss. [King Lear]

much unfurnished: not ready. [Romeo and Juliet]

Mugs: common name for a country bumpkin. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

mushrumps: mushrooms. [The Tempest]

music from the spheres: according to Pythagoras, the universe consisted of eight hollow spheres, inside of which the earth and all the other planets are fixed. The spheres produced a note, each of which combined to produce perfect harmony that is inaudible to the human ear. The earth is at the center of this system. [Twelfth Night]

mute: slave whose tongue has been removed for security reasons, or silent person. Both mutes and eunuchs were associated with oriental courts. [Twelfth Night]




naughty: insolent, wicked. A stronger term for the Elizabethans than for us. [Julius Caesar]

new abroach: newly afoot (newly underway). [Romeo and Juliet]

night-tripping fairy: it was commonly believed that elves and fairies sometimes exchanged well-favored babies for nasty ones, who were often called changelings. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

nimble-footed: madcap. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

nimble-pinioned doves: nimble-winged doves. Doves pulled Venus' chariot and were held sacred by her. [Romeo and Juliet]

nonce: occasion. [Hamlet]

nothing jealous: have no doubt. Frequently used by Elizabethans. [Julius Caesar]

nuncle: an abbreviation of mine uncle; intimacies of address such as this were permitted to a "licensed fool." [King Lear]




O proper stuff: A fine thing this! [Macbeth]

occulted: hidden. [Hamlet]

odd-even: between night and day. [Othello]

o'er ears: i.e., underwater. [The Tempest]

of general assault: common to all men. [Hamlet]

of wax: i.e., as handsome as if he had been modeled in wax, finer than men usually are. [Romeo and Juliet]

on the hip: at my mercy. [Othello]

orb: poetic word for world. [Twelfth Night]

ordinary: a tavern. [Julius Caesar]

othergates: otherwise (than). [Twelfth Night]

out of haunt: away from others. [Hamlet]

out of warrant: unjustifiable. [Othello]

out: angry. [Julius Caesar]

outface them: get the better of them. [The Merchant of Venice]

overname: name them over. [The Merchant of Venice]




paddock: a toad, as in an attendant spirit that calls a witch when it is time to go on some evil errand. [Macbeth]

pale Hecate: Hecate, goddess of the moon and the underworld, was queen of the witches and witchcraft. [Macbeth]

palmy: flourishing. [Hamlet]

palter: quibble or deceive. [Julius Caesar]

pard or cat o' mountain: leopard. [The Tempest]

parle: parley. [Hamlet]

patch: clown or fool. [The Merchant of Venice]

paunch: stab. [The Tempest]

pearl: all that's good in the kingdom. [Macbeth]

peize: "piece out," delay. [The Merchant of Venice]

pennyworths: small quantities (of sleep); pronounced "pennorths." [Romeo and Juliet]

pent-house lid: the eyelid that resembles a sloped roof. [Macbeth]

perdy: from the French par dieu, by God. [King Lear]

periwig-pated: bewigged. [Hamlet]

perpetual wink: endless sleep; death. [The Tempest]

pignuts: peanuts. [The Tempest]

plume up: gratify. [Othello]

point-devise: to the point of perfection. [Twelfth Night]

poor pennyworth: only a small quantity. [The Merchant of Venice]

portance: behavior. [Othello]

possets: a drink made from hot curdled milk, ale, wine, etc., and taken usually on retiring. [Macbeth]

posy: inscription inside a ring, often in verse. [The Merchant of Venice]

pout'st upon: treat with contempt. [Romeo and Juliet]

practicing upon: plotting against. [Othello]

praetor: magistrate. [Julius Caesar]

prate: chatter, gossip. [Macbeth]

prick: spur. [Julius Caesar]

primy: in its prime, youthful. [Hamlet]

princox: PRIN/ce of COX/combs; pert, saucy boy, upstart. [Romeo and Juliet]

prithee: I entreat you. [Twelfth Night]

prodigies: unnatural events. [Julius Caesar]

proof of constancy: test of endurance. [Julius Caesar]

proper: belonging. [Julius Caesar]

propertied me: made a tool of. [Twelfth Night]

prorogued: adjourned (postponed). [Romeo and Juliet]

pudder: tumult. [King Lear]

puddled: muddied. [Othello]

puling: whining. [Romeo and Juliet]

purblind: quite blind or merely dimsighted. [Romeo and Juliet]

is pure innocence: i.e., has the same childlike sincerity. [The Merchant of Venice]

purple-hued malt-worm: purplefaced beer-drinkers. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

pursy: sensual. [Hamlet]

put foil: set it off by contrast. [The Tempest]

put on: incite. [Othello]; reveal. [Julius Caesar]

put to silence: a euphemism for executed. [Julius Caesar]

put up our pipes: pack up. [Romeo and Juliet]




quailing: cowardly giving up. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

quaint: the word has various Elizabethan meanings: skillful, ingenious, delicate, elegant. [The Tempest]

quick mettle: mentally sharp. [Julius Caesar]

quiddities: subtle distinctions, hair-splitting. [Hamlet]

quilets: quibbles. [Hamlet]

quillets: quips. [Othello]




rack'd reference to the rack, an instrument of torture. [Twelfth Night]

rank garb: gross manner. [Othello]

ranker: greater. [Hamlet]

rated: upbraided. [Julius Caesar]

razes: roots (from Latin, radix root). [King Henry IV, Part 1]

reasonable shore: the shore of reason, the mind. [The Tempest]

receiving: sensitive understanding. [Twelfth Night]

recks rede: takes no care of his own counsel. [Hamlet]

reechy: literally smoky, foul. [Hamlet]

reeking: sweating. [King Lear]

remembrances: love-tokens. [Hamlet]

rest you merry: a colloquial term of farewell, comparable to our "All the best!" [Romeo and Juliet]

reverb no hollowness: i.e., make no noise, as a hollow vessel does when it is struck. [King Lear]

rheumy: moist. [Julius Caesar]

rive: split open. [King Lear]; split in two. [Julius Caesar]

robustious: ranting. [Hamlet]

romage: rummage, bustle. [Hamlet]

ronyon: a term of abuse or contempt. [Macbeth]

rouse: draught of liquor, bumper, toast. [Hamlet]

rump-fed: fed with expensive cuts of meat. [Macbeth]




sable silver'd: black streaked with white. [Hamlet]

sallies: sudden advances in battle. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

saws: maxims, aphorisms. [Twelfth Night]

scant show well: scarcely appear attractive. [Romeo and Juliet]

scanted: ignored. [King Lear]; stingy. [King Lear]

scarfed: with flags flying. [The Merchant of Venice]

Scone: where Scottish kings were crowned. [Macbeth]

scotch'd: slashed, gashed. [Macbeth]

scrimers: fencers. [Hamlet]

scutcheon: shield on coat of arms. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

se offendendo: in self-defense. [Hamlet]

seated in the mean: with neither too much nor too little. [The Merchant of Venice]

sect or scion: cutting or offshoot. [Othello]

seel: blind, close. [Othello]

self-bounty: inherent goodness. [Othello]

selfsame flight: same sort. [The Merchant of Venice]

sennet: a musical phrase played on the trumpet indicating a ceremonial entrance. [King Lear]

sequestration: separation. [Othello]

set cock-a-hoop: orig., to drink without stint, make good cheer recklessly, (hence) to cast off all restraint. [Romeo and Juliet]

several bastardy: not true Roman blood [Julius Caesar]

shark'd: gathered indiscriminately. [Hamlet]

shent: rebuked, reproved, blamed. [Twelfth Night] [Hamlet]

shoon: shoes. [Hamlet]

shoughs: shaggy-haired dogs. [Macbeth]

shrift: confession. [Romeo and Juliet]

shut up: retired to rest. [Macbeth]

sick offence: harmful illness. [Julius Caesar]

sift him: find out what one knows. [Hamlet]

signifying nothing: lacking sense or meaning. [Macbeth]

sir-reverence: filth, dung. "Sir-reverence" came to mean this because the word prefaced mention of unpleasant things (a corruption of "save your reverence;" i.e., excuse my mentioning it). [Romeo and Juliet]

skimble-skamble stuff: confused, rambling nonsense. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

sleave: skein (of silk). [Macbeth]

slenderly known himself: knows little of his real self. [King Lear]

'slight: by God's light (common Elizabethan oath). [Twelfth Night]

slipp'd the hour: passed the appointed time. [Macbeth]

slubber: make a mess of. [The Merchant of Venice]

slug-abed: lit. slug in a bed, i.e., lazy creature. [Romeo and Juliet]

smilets: little smiles. [King Lear]

sneck up!: Go hang (onomatopoetic sound of a man's neck breaking.) [Twelfth Night]

Soft you!: i.e., Hold on; wait. [Hamlet] [Julius Caesar]

sonties: saints. [The Merchant of Venice]

sooth: truth. [Macbeth]

sounded: proclaimed. [Julius Caesar]

sow'd a grizzle on thy case: grown a beard on your face. [Twelfth Night]

spleen: anger. [Othello]; fiery impetuosity. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

splenetive: full of spleen, hot-tempered. [Hamlet]

spongy: drunk, saturated with liquor. [Macbeth]

springe: snare. [Hamlet]

stand close: stand back, conceal yourself. [Julius Caesar]

star-crossed: i.e., their fortunes were marred by the influence of the stars. That men's natures and fortunes were influenced by the star under which they were born was a widespread superstition of Elizabethan times. [Romeo and Juliet]

steads: benefits. [Romeo and Juliet]

still: always. A common Elizabethan use. [Hamlet]

still quiring: ever singing. [The Merchant of Venice]

stoup: cup, flagon, or tankard. [Twelfth Night] [Hamlet]

stronds: shores. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

stumblest on my counsel: overhears by accident my secret thoughts. [Romeo and Juliet]

suborn'd: secretly induced or hired. [Macbeth]

suit: wooing. [Twelfth Night]

swag-bellied: loose-bellied. [Othello]

swashing blow: knock-out blow. [Romeo and Juliet]

sweet friends: i.e., the two lips. [The Merchant of Venice]

swoopstake: in a clean sweep. [Hamlet]

swounded: fainted. [Julius Caesar]




tabor: small drum used by professional clowns and jesters. [Twelfth Night]

taper: candle. [Julius Caesar]

tardiness in nature: natural reticence. [King Lear]

teen: pain. [The Tempest]

tell the clock: answer appropriately. [The Tempest]

tenders: offers. [Hamlet]

termagant: violent. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

terms compulsative: force. [Hamlet]

tetchy: fretful, peevish. [Romeo and Juliet]

Thane: an old title of nobility in Scotland similar to that of Earl. [Macbeth]

Theban: the association of the Greek city Thebes, as with Athens, is with philosophical inquiry. [King Lear]

thought-executing: numbing the thought. [King Lear]

thunder-stone: thunderbolt, lightning. [Julius Caesar]

tinkers: tinkers were a noisy lot and, being gypsies, had their own language (Romany). [Twelfth Night]

'Tis all one: i.e., 'tis all the same, it makes no difference to me. [Romeo and Juliet]

Tom o' Bedlam: one who begs on the roads and has been released from the London madhouse, Bethlehem ("Bedlam") Hospital. [King Lear]

topgallant: highest sail on the mast; hence, summit. [Romeo and Juliet]

toy in blood: trifling passion. [Hamlet]

traffic: trade, commerce. [The Tempest]

traject: ferry (from Italian traghetto). [The Merchant of Venice]

trammel up: catch, as in a net. [Macbeth]

travelling lamp: the sun. [Macbeth]

trencher: wooden plate, lit. one to cut food upon. [Romeo and Juliet]

trimmed: dressed up. [Othello]

tristful: sorrowful. [Hamlet]

trowest: believe, give credit to. [King Lear]

truckle-bed: small bed on wheels (cf. "truck") which (for a servant) was pushed under a larger bed (the master's), trundle bed. [Romeo and Juliet]

truncheon: a general's baton. [Hamlet]

turn Turk: turn bad. [Hamlet]

two-headed Janus: a Roman god represented with two faces, one smiling and the other frowning. [The Merchant of Venice]




unbend: relax. [Macbeth]

unbitted: uncontrolled. [Othello]

unbound: unbounded, unmarried, free. [Romeo and Juliet]

unbraced: with doublet untied, open. [Julius Caesar]

unbruised: unspoiled. [Romeo and Juliet]

uncharge the practice: acquit us of plotting. [Hamlet]

undergoing stomach: enduring spirit. [The Tempest]

undone: returned to chaos. [Macbeth]

ungently: discourteously. [Julius Caesar]

unhoused: unrestrained. [Othello]

unhousel'd: not having received the sacrament. [Hamlet]

unmake: unnerve. [Macbeth]

unprevailing: futile. [Hamlet]

unprovide: unsettle. [Othello]

unreclaimed: untamed. [Hamlet]

unsinew'd: weak. [Hamlet]

unstuffed: by care (anxiety). [Romeo and Juliet]

untaught: unmannerly, ignorant. [Romeo and Juliet]

untented: uncurable; to "tent" a wound was to probe and clean it. [King Lear]

unthrifty: unlucky. [Romeo and Juliet]

unyoke: i.e., consider your day's work done. [Hamlet]

upon the gad: on the spur of the moment. [King Lear]

up-staring: standing straight up. [The Tempest]

urchin-shows: it was an Elizabethan folk belief that malignant spirits appeared in the form of hedgehogs to torment people. [The Tempest]

usance: interest on money lent. [The Merchant of Venice]




vailing: lowering. [The Merchant of Venice]

varlets: low, uncouth characters. [The Tempest]

varnished faces: i.e., wearing painted masks. [The Merchant of Venice]

verdure: vitality, health. [The Tempest]

vestal livery: virgin uniform. [Romeo and Juliet]

villanies: evil qualities. [Macbeth]

virgin hue: whiteness; the Elizabethans usually spoke of silver as being white. [The Merchant of Venice]

vizards: masks. [Macbeth]

void your rheum: spit. [The Merchant of Venice]

vulgar, the: the common people. [Julius Caesar]




wafter: wave. [Julius Caesar]

wag: witty fellow. [King Henry IV, Part 1]

want-wit: one who lacks wits. [The Merchant of Venice]

watch him tame: keep after him until he agrees with you. [Othello]

watchful cares: cares that keep one awake. [Julius Caesar]

water-rugs: rough water dogs. [Macbeth]

weak supposal: poor opinion. [Hamlet]

weather-fends: protects from the weather. [The Tempest]

weird sisters: weird, meant fateful, as in the three fates of Graeco-Roman mythology. [Macbeth]

welkin: sky, one of the elements. [Twelfth Night]

well conceited: both correctly conceived and aptly expressed. [Julius Caesar]

weraday: alas the day. [Romeo and Juliet]

whe'r: frequent in Shakespeare for whether. [Julius Caesar]

white-upturned: with eyes rolled, as in the whites of the eyes turned upward. [Romeo and Juliet]

whoreson: worthless (literally bastard). [Hamlet]

will he, nill he: willy-nilly, whether he wishes or not. [Hamlet]

willow cabin: small hut with willow (the sign of unrequited love) before it. [Twelfth Night]

wild-goose chase: my following you. The term "wild-goose chase" was applied to a contest where two riders started together and as soon as one obtained the lead, the other had to follow over the same ground, unless he could overtake him, when the position was reversed. The name is taken from the way a flock of geese flies in a line. The phrase has a rather different meaning now. [Romeo and Juliet]

wilt: must. [Romeo and Juliet]

windlasses: roundabout means, indirect attempts. [Hamlet]

wonder-wounded: overcome with wonder. [Hamlet]

wondrous sensible: very deeply felt. [The Merchant of Venice]

worser genius: bad spirit. [The Tempest]

wot: know. [Romeo and Juliet]







yarely: quickly, smartly. [The Tempest]

yerked: stabbed. [Othello]

yoeman: a property owner, but beneath a gentleman in social rank. [King Lear]

young-eyed: the cherubim, according to Ezekiel 10:12: were endowed with keenness of vision above all other heavenly creatures. [The Merchant of Venice]

younker: sucker (colloquial) [King Henry IV, Part 1]; youngster. [The Merchant of Venice]

your mind hold: if you don't change your mind; if you are still sane. [Julius Caesar]






Please contact me if you would like other words or phrases included.


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