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Shakespearean Language

Shakespearean Language

The Language of Shakespeare

    

The English language has changed a great deal over the last few hundred years, and it is still changing.  Several words in use during Shakespeare's day either have different meanings today or have been nearly forgotten.  Here is a list of some of the most common words in Shakespeare with which you might not be familiar.  There is also a link to a printable version of this list at the bottom of the page.  Use this list however you like--just let people know it's from the English department at www.bathcsd.org!

anon—right now, OR “I come right away”……. “Anon, good nurse!  Speak!”

 

art—are, OR skill……“Thou art  dead; no physician’s art can save you.”

 

dost or doth—does or do……“Dost thou know the time?”

 

ere—before……“We must leave ere daybreak.”

 

fain—gladly……“I fain would bake Mr. Love cookies if I could get an A.”

 

fie—an exclamation of dismay or disgust……“You cheated?  Fie upon it!” OR “Fie!  Are you mad?”

 

hark—listen……. “Hark to the owl,” OR “Hark!  The herald angels sing!”

 

hence—away…..“Get thee hence, beggar!”  OR “We must hence before the army arrives.”

 

hie—hurry……“Hie thee hence, or lose your life!”

 

hither—here…..“Come hither, young lad.”

 

thither—there……“Look to the east—thither doth the sun arise.”

 

hath—has……… “He hath killed many a man.” OR “He hath a horse.”

 

ho—hey (roughly equivalent). “Lucius, ho!”  [Brutus calling his servant] 

 

mark—pay attention to…….. “Mark my words.”

 

marry—indeed……“He says I should respond quickly; marry, I want to.”

 

pray/prithee—a polite way of asking something……“I prithee answer the question.”

 

saucy—cheeky; sassy……“Hence, thou saucy boy!”

 

sirrah—a term of address used for inferiors……“Sirrah, bring the letter over here.”

 

thee—you……“When will I see thee next?”

 

thou—you……“Thou art a villain.”

 

thy—your……“Thy name is more hateful than thy face.”

 

whence—from where…….. “Whence came that news?” OR “Return to whence you came.”

 

wherefore—why……“Wherefore dost thou leave?”  OR “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” [As in, “why can’t you be someone else, whom my family doesn’t hate?”]

 



Related Files

    doc Printable version of this list (doc file - 32 KB)

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