The English language is in constant change. Just as today we use words such as “cool” and “hot” in ways that were never considered just fifty years ago, so too are the meanings of words from Shakespeare’s time unfamiliar to us. Here are some examples of how we might phrase some of Shakespeare’s words today:

“I never knew / A Florentine more kind and honest.” — Cassio (3.1.28)

“I never met anyone so nice, even if he is a New Yorker.”

“I am about it; but indeed my invention / Comes from my pate as birdlime does from frize.” — Iago (2.1.125–27)

“I’m trying to think, but my ideas come slowly, like bird crap on a statue.”

“You have known him long, and be you well assured / He shall in strangeness stand no farther off / Than in a polite distance.” — Desdemona (3.3.11–13)

“You two are such old friends that I’m sure he will only keep his distance as long as he has to.”


Scion: An offshoot.
“Call love to be a sect or scion.”
        — Iago (1.3.332)


Se’nnight’s: Seven nights, one week.
“Anticipates our thoughts A se’nnight’s speed.”
        — Cassio (2.1.77)


Sibyl: A prophetess or witch.
“A sibyl . . . sewed the work.”
        — Othello (3.4.70)


Toged: Toga wearing.
“The toged consuls can propose.”
        — Iago (1.1.25)


Yerk’d: Strike, whip, or kick.
“I had thought to have yerk’d him.”
        — Iago (1.2.5)


Zounds: Exclamation, God’s wounds!
 “Zounds, sir, you’re robb’d.”
        — Iago (1.1.86)