“Avoid clichés,” insists writers, instructors, and publishers. The two most common phrase sources appear to be the Bible and Shakespeare. Composers may “write the songs” but Shakespeare actually coined some of the lyrics. He added more sayings to the English language than anyone else. Sometimes he “popularized” a phrase he “borrowed.”
FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE – is referenced in King John, 1595. However, today’s rendition originated with settlers in the 19th Century who lit “back fires” in hopes of eliminating fuel for a raging fire.
SEEN BETTER DAYS –The line first appeared in the play Sir Thomas More, 1590, attributed to Shakespeare although listed as anonymously written.
LOVE IS BLIND – This favorite line of Shakespeare appears in several of his plays - Two Gentlemen of Verona, Henry V and The Merchant Of Venice.
ALLS WELL THAT ENDS WELL – Shakespeare borrowed the proverb used by John Heywood in 1596 and used it to name a 1601 play.
GOOD RIDDANCE – although first quoted by someone else, Shakespeare seems to have coined it in Troilus and Cressida, 1606.
ALL OF A SUDDEN – appeared in The Taming of the Shrew, circa 1596
DASH TO PIECES – emerged in The Tempest, 1610
EATEN OUT OF HOUSE AND HOME – showed up in King Henry IV Part II, 1597.
FANCY FREE – A Midsummer’s Night Dream, 1598
FOR EVER AND A DAY – Taming of the Shrew, 1596
HEART’S CONTENT - Henry VI, Part II, 1592 and in The Merchant of Venice, 1596
HIGH TIME – In A Comedy of Errors, 1590, referred to noon, supposedly the hottest time of the day. It has many meanings.
A few others include “hot-blooded”, “in stitches,” “household words,” “the twinkling of an eye,” “lie low,” “night owl,” “pound of flesh,” “primrose lane,” “rhyme nor reason,” and “woe is me.”
Find a list of 135 phrases supposedly coined by Shakespeare http://tinyurl.com/yopw9f. Or, for the meanings and origins of other popular phrases, go to The Phrase Finder.