The Professional Theatre at Southern Utah University

Skip to main content

Shakespeare's Language: The Taming of the Shrew

Shakespeare's Language: The Taming of the Shrew

Since The Taming of the Shrew was written, many words in English have changed their meaning, and some are no longer used. Consider how today’s popular slang will seem dated in just a few years. For instance, who now uses the word “groovy”? Shakespeare used the rich vocabulary of his day within his plays and also made up words when it suited him. When reading Shakespeare try not to get hung up on understanding every word, rather read the line in context of the scene. Try translating the lines below into your own words using today’s vernacular.

Selected Vocabulary

Stoic: A follower of the ancient philosophy that stated a man should be free from emotion.
“Let us no Stoics”
    — Tranio (1.1.31)

Stocks: a block of wood, i.e., without feeling.
“No Stoics nor no stocks”
    — Tranio (1.1.31) 

Mew: to shut up or lock away
“Has he closely mew’d her up”
    — Tranio (1.1.184)

Dam: the female parent of an animal
“Go to the devil’s dam”
    — Gremio (1.1.105)

Pith: the essential part, the core
“What’s the pith of all”
    — Tranio (1.1.166)

Readiest: arranged
“Which is the readiest way”
    — Tranio (1.2.219)

Gawds: ornaments
“But for these other gawds”
    — Bianca (2.1.3)

Hilding: a base and menial wretch
“Thou hilding ofdevilish spirit.”
    — Baptista (2.1.26)

Peremptory: absolute, not open to debate
“I am as peremptory as she”
    — Petruchio (2.1.131)

Rail: scold harshly
“Say that she rail”
    — Petruchio (2.1.170)

Jade: a vicious broken down horse
“No jade such as you”
    — Katharina (2.1.201)

Pedant: A boring, self-important schoolteacher
“Wrangling pedant”
    — Hortensio (3.1.4)

Breeching: in breech, erring, needing punishment
“No breeching scholar”
    — Bianca (3.1.18)

Habit: Costume, apparel
“Doff this habit”
    — Baptista (3.2.100)

Domineer: to have one’s way, indulge
“Revel, feast and domineer”
    — Petruchio (3.2.224)

Buckler: shield or defend
“I’ll buckler thee”
    — Petruchio (3.2.239)

Bemoiled: covered in mud, bedraggled
“She was bemoiled”
    — Grumio (4.1.75)

Dresser: table meat is prepared on
“Brought it from the dresser”
    — Petruchio (4.1.163)

Choler: anger of spirit, bad humor
“It engenders choler”
    — Petruchio (4.1.172)

Continency: self-control
“A sermon of continency”
    — Curtis (4.2.183)

Neat’s foot: cow foot
“What say you to a neat’s foot?”
    — Grumio (4.3.17)

Cockle: a sea muscle-shell
“Tis a cockle, a knack a toy, a trick”
    — Petruchio (4.3.66)

Censer: an incense burner with a perforated lid used for Catholic mass
“Like to a censer in a barber’s shop”
    — Petruchio (4.3.91)

Habiliments: clothes
“These honest mean habiliments”
    — Petruchio (4.3.170)

Jarring: discordant, out of tune
“Our jarring notes agree”
    — Lucentio (5.2.1)

Giddy: dizzy
“He that is giddy thinks the world turns round”
    — Widow (5.2.19)

Holidame: referring to the Virgin Mary
“Now, by my holidame, here comes Katharina”
    — Baptista (5.2.98)

Meads: meadows
“As frosts do bite the meads”
    — Katharina (5.2.139)


(All references are from The Riverside Shakespeare [Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997).