There are a number of quotes from Shakespeare plays that made it into the English language centuries ago. They are such an integral part of the English language that not many speakers actually know they were coined by the Bard (or, at the very least, he was the first to record them in writing). Do you know what they mean?

  1.  ‘Knock knock’- ‘Who’s there?’

  2. (Have) a heart of gold

  3. Faint-hearted / fainthearted

  4. so-so

  5. good riddance

  6. (It’s) seen better days

  7. Fight fire with fire

  8. Wear your heart on your sleeve

  9. Come what may

  10. I haven’t slept a/one wink

  11. For goodness’ sake

  12. (Wait) with bated breath

  13. Green-eyed monster

  14. (To be the) laughing stock 

  15. Makes your hair stand on end

  16. Love is blind

  17. Naked truth

  18. Off with his head

  19. Fair play/foul play

  20. A sorry sight

  21. Break the ice 

  22. The world is my oyster

  23. A piece of work

Pick 5-7 of these expressions. Can you think of a context where you would use them? 

You can find the key to answers and examples of real-language use here: 

  1. Knock knock’- ‘Who’s there?’example

  2. (Have) a heart of goldexample

  3. Faint-hearted/fainthearted (not for the faint of heart/for the faint-hearted)- example

  4. so-so

  5. good riddanceexample / example2 /example 3

  6. (It’s) seen better daysexample

  7. Fight fire with fireexample 

  8. Wear your heart on your sleeveexample

  9. Come what mayexample

  10. I haven’t slept a/one wink‘I’m so tired’ by the Beatles 

  11. For goodness’ sake

  12. (Wait) with bated breathexampleexample Margater Thatcher 

  13. Green-eyed monsterexample

  14. (To be the) laughing stockexample

  15. makes your hair stand on end

  16. Love is blind

  17. naked truth

  18. off with his head

  19. fair play/foul play

  20. a sorry sightexample

  21. break the ice 

  22. the world is my/your oysterexample1example2

  23. a piece of workexample

What Shakesperean expression would you use in these contexts?

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You can also find plenty of Shakespearean references in contemporary culture.