For years, Shakespeare has been thought to deploy greater linguistic variety than contemporaries like Marlowe, Kyd, and Jonson; scholars have estimated that he coined as many as 1,700 words, and that he employed a uniquely large vocabulary of at least 20,000 words. As professor Alfred Hart, long the authority on Shakespeare’s vocabulary, wrote in 1943, his addition of new words play after play shows “how deep and apparently inexhaustible were the wells of his memory and invention, and how marvellous his aptitude for word-coining.”
Of course, as almost all authors admit, it is next to impossible to tell whether Shakespeare really “invented” these words or was simply the first to write them down. But either way, the myth of his linguistic innovation has become part and parcel of his legendary status. Coined by Shakespeare? Think again – Ideas – The Boston Globe.