Yay for John Milton:)



Wouldn’t it marvellous to invent a word which was still in use 400 years later. I would like that very much. I would indeed. Just one word which rang out through he ages and spawned many others. One word which felt fresh through each age.

Well one knows that Shakespeare did, back in the  16th century, those old days appear to be very inventive days. Of course those were the days with few rules as to grammar or spelling, forget correct usage and all the other pedantic reasons for not straying from the path, but even so,it was an incredible word count, so many hundreds of our common day words were invented way back them Shakespeare was prolific but, John Milton even more so.

According to Dr Gavin Alexander who trawled through the Oxford Dictionary something like 630 words which are still in existence can be attributed to Milton, and many more which lagged at the first gate.

630 new words, or meanings of words. I would like to be able to do one!

Not as many people know Milton as they do Shakespeare, not so often taught at school, not taken over by Hollywood although I think Paradise Lost would make a seat on the edge film:)

Mostly he is known for Paradise Lost and less famously for Paradise Regained – splendid works to be remembered by. He is also known in more academic circles for his treatise on the freedom of the presses, Areopagitica, which rang such a clarion call that it is quoted in the Supreme Court of America to this day. Not bad for a man from the 17th century.

I suppose being a Puritan in those days of Roman Catholicism, he was always destined to be a rebel.Many of his contemporaries complained of his blatant flouting of supposed ‘poetical rules’ and the authorities complained bitterly at the words condemning their actions. He was a great champion of free speech, with caveats!, A champion of divorce, with limits. He was after all a man of his times and even going as far as he did was perilous.

Anyway – his words. The first one I was ever aware of was Pandemonium – I am not sure how many years I have known about the word being his. I read Paradise Lost for the first time many decades ago maybe back in the 1960s so it may be that long.I liked the idea of Satan’s castle being named so.

I have discovered over the years other words and more recently I have read about them from such as John Crace

Among them


He took space which was just a space and threw in up into the eaves and became the first to use it in the ‘universe’ meaning of the word

He invented sayings

trip the light fantastic
All ears
All hell break loose
Silver lining (in the cloud sense)



We got padlock, embellish, stunning and complacency
Unprincipled and unaccountable

Just to name a few. All seem quite modern, well maybe some such as debauchery aren’t used as much in everyday speech but are still used in writing. They don’t look like made up words – what does one of them look like? After all we willingly take on new words which become common place in a few months even – but will they last 400 years I wonder? It is the very commonplaceness of Milton’s invented words and meanings which delight me. They may have caused comment back then, been disregarded by other educated men, may have caused rage and fury for all I know, however every fibre of me responds with a smile and a ‘yes’ to the champions of nimble inventiveness and maverick disregard for the status quo.

Yay for John Milton:)




One thought on “Yay for John Milton:)

  1. Widdershins says:

    Pandemonium … what a wonderfully chaotic word! :D

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