Posted by: internationalroutier | March 18, 2010

New Words for the 17th Century!

contributed, with the editor’s many thanks, by Spike.

Imported words

A market or area of small stalls. The word came into English in the 16th century from Persian.

A Muslim form of greeting, comprising a word and a bow. From Arabic salam, peace. Related to Hebrew shalom – “peace”. It has been used in English for about 400 years.

This is the plural of genius when that word refers to a person’s guiding spirit or angel. From ancient Roman mythology. A Latin word which appeared in English books about 400 years ago. Because of its appearance and spelling, the singular version genius became genie. We now use genius to denote a very clever person, and genie for a spirit or angel.

The plural of radius, a straight line from the centre of a circle to any point on its circumference; half of the diameter of the circle. A Latin word adopted about 400 years ago.

Some dictionaries have knick-knack or nick-nack. A small or cheap ornament. It came into English in the 17th century, but originally meant a trick or a subterfuge.

Also spelt pucka. Correctly or properly done; genuine. A Hindu word which came into English in the 17th century.

In science, a continuous series. Adopted into English in the 17th century, a Latin word.

A space in which there is no matter. A Latin word which was adopted into English for scientific purposes in the 16th century.

Some dictionaries have bow-wow. An infant or childish word for a dog, or the bark of a dog. It was first used in print, meaning the sound of a barking dog, about 400 years ago.

A talk or conference. Adopted into English in the 17th century from a North American Indian word.

…And Phrases coming into use

William Shakespeare, 1564–1616

My friends were poor but honest (All’s Well that Ends Well).
My salad days, when I was green in judgement (Anthony and Cleopatra).
Sweet are the uses of adversity (As You Like It)
All the world’s a stage. ditto
Thereby hangs a tale. ditto
A countenance more in sorrow than in anger (Hamlet).
And to the manner born. ditto
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. ditto
Murder most foul. ditto
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. ditto
Brevity is the soul of wit. ditto
Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t. ditto
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil. ditto
The lady doth protest too much, methinks. ditto
I must be cruel only to be kind. ditto
Why then, the world’s mine oyster (The Merry Wives of Windsor).
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve (Othello).
O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; / It is the green-eyed monster… ditto
…The milk of human kindness (Macbeth)
…At one fell swoop. ditto
I bear a charmed life. ditto
Lawn as white as driven snow (The Winter’s Tale). [Lawn = linen.]
If you have tears, prepare to shed them now (Julius Caesar).
This was the most unkindest cut of all. ditto
I am a man more sinned against than sinning. (King Lear).
The wheel is come full circle. ditto
It is a wise father than knows his own child (The Merchant of Venice).
But love is blind, and lovers cannot see. ditto
The quality of mercy is not strained… ditto
A pair of star-crossed lovers (Romeo and Juliet).
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet. ditto
Parting is such sweet sorrow. ditto
Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows (The Tempest).
O brave new world. ditto
If music be the food of love, play on (Twelfth Night).
A man can die but once (King Henry IV, Part II).
Comparisons are odious (Much Ado About Nothing).
Men of few words are the best men (King Henry V).
Crabbed age and youth cannot live together (The Passionate Pilgrim)

Other 16th and 17th century writers
No man is an island, entire of itself (John Donne, 1571?–1631).
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. ditto
I was all ear (John Milton, 1608–1674). Usually misquoted as ‘I am all ears’.
Fame is the spur. ditto



  1. We should distinguish between “English Books” and “Books in the English language”. It is worth noting why the latin words in this list first appeared in the English language at this time. It was not because Englishmen had previously not dealt with such concepts, but because those Englishmen who had done so had written in Latin.

    The loss of an international language of intellectual exchange is one of the tragedies of the Italian Renaissance. It is only now, half a millenium later, that that loss is beginning to be made good with English being slowly adopted in the same role (though only in some disciplines). The symbology of mathematics has helped, but does not go all the way outside the field of pure maths itself.

  2. I have been reliably informed we have Helmut the German to thank for this article. Many apologies and thanks Helmut (if indeed you are out there…)

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