Idioms, Expressions, Vocabulary

English Idioms from Shakespeare

April 22, 2018

English Idioms from Shakespeare

Shakespeare is perhaps the most famous English writer in history, so it’s not surprising that he influenced the English language! Many of the expressions he used in his plays are now a part of everyday English language. In some cases, Shakespeare was not the first person to use these expressions, but he was the first person to popularize them. How many of these English idioms from Shakespeare do you know?

  • All that glitters is not gold
  • All’s well that ends well
  • As good luck would have it
  • Break the ice
  • (as) Dead as a doornail
  • Fancy-free
  • Game is up
  • Heart of gold
  • In my heart of hearts
  • Kill (someone) with kindness

English Idioms from Shakespeare

All that glitters is not gold

The Merry Wives of Windsor

Definition: Things that seem to be wonderful are in reality not that great.

Example: Sometimes I think it would be cool to be a dancer . . . but all that glitters is not gold. I know that it’s hard work for very little pay.


All’s well that ends well

All’s Well that Ends Well

Definition: An expression used when a bad situation ends with a good result. This expression is a way of saying that it is a good idea to forget the bad things that happened.

Example: We got lost and our car broke down, but we arrived at the wedding just as it began. All’s well that ends well!


As good luck would have it

The Merry Wives of Windsor

Definition: An expression to introduce a good idea or situation (often when telling a story).

Example: I thought I lost my wallet, but as good luck would have it, it was in my jacket pocket. Thank goodness!


Break the ice

The Taming of the Shrew

Definition: To begin a conversation or activity, usually when the people are strangers.

Example: What should we do to break the ice at the party on Friday?


Dead as a doornail

King Henry VI

Definition: Dead (used jokingly).

Example: There is no way we can help this tree. It’s (as) dead as a doornail.



A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Definition: Without a care; worry-free.

Example: Remember when we were children and fancy-free? I miss those days . . .


Game is up


Definition: When a team is winning by so many points that the other team has no chance of winning.

Example: They’re winning by 5-1 and there is 1 minute left. Game’s up.


Heart of gold

Henry V

Definition: A good person (or animal).

Example: My dog, like all dogs, has a heart of gold. But my cat is another story . . .


In my heart of hearts


Definition: An expression to describe one’s intuition or deeper feelings about something.

Example: In my heart of hearts, I knew that Jack was not the love of my life.


Kill with kindness

The Taming of the Shrew

Definition: To be kind, even to people who do not deserve your kindness.

Example: My mother always told me that I should ignore people who are mean to me, or kill them with kindness. It was good advice.

Cover photo from Flickr.

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