60 Best Shakespearean Insults That Win Verbal Duels

by NEW YORK DIGITAL NEWS


William Shakespeare was a writer beyond compare, and one of his biggest talents was composing incredibly creative ways to insult people. While we always want to encourage students to be kind to one another, sometimes it’s just plain fun to use Shakespearean insults! This list contains some of his best put-downs, sure to make kids and teens laugh.

Shakespearean Insults for People That Annoy or Anger You

I am sick when I do look on thee.

I am sick when I do look on thee.

In Modern Terms: It makes me sick to look at you.

Source: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 2, scene 1

Sell when you can; you are not for all markets.

Sell when you can; you are not for all markets.- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: Take whatever friends you can get, because not everyone is going to like you.

Source: As You Like It, Act 3, scene 5

I’ll beat thee, but I should infect my hands.

I’ll beat thee, but I should infect my hands.

In Modern Terms: I’d hit you, but I’d just get my hands dirty.

Source: Timon of Athens, Act 4, scene 3

Thou art a boil, a plague-sore.

Thou art a boil, a plague-sore.- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: You’re a thorn in my side, a constant irritation.

Source: King Lear, Act 2, scene 4

Out of my sight! Thou dost infect mine eyes.

Out of my sight! Thou dost infect mine eyes.

In Modern Terms: Go away! It makes me sick to look at you.

Source: Richard III, Act 1, scene 2

Let’s meet as little as we can.

Let’s meet as little as we can.

In Modern Terms: We should try to avoid each other in the future.

Source: As You Like It, Act 3, scene 2

I do desire we may be better strangers.

I do desire we may be better strangers.- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: I hope I never see you again.

Source: As You Like It, Act 3, scene 2

I do wish thou wert a dog, that I might love thee something.

I do wish thou wert a dog, that I might love thee something.

In Modern Terms: Too bad you’re not a dog, because then you’d at least be a little bit lovable.

Source: Timon of Athens, Act 4, scene 3

The owner of no one good quality.

The owner of no one good quality- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: There’s absolutely nothing good about this person.

Source: All’s Well That Ends Well, Act 3, scene 6

You, minion, are too saucy.

You, minion, are too saucy.

In Modern Terms: Don’t talk back to me, servant.

Source: The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act 1, scene 2

You common cry of curs, whose breath I hate as reek o’ th’ rotten fens.

You common cry of curs, whose breath I hate as reek o’ th’ rotten fens.- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: I’m tired of hearing your annoying voices, you low-down dogs.

Source: Coriolanus, Act 3, scene 3

You are not worth another word; else I’d call you knave.

You are not worth another word; else I’d call you knave.

In Modern Terms: I’m not even going to waste my breath calling you a scoundrel.

Source: All’s Well That Ends Well, Act 2, scene 3

Away, you mouldy rogue, away!

Away, you mouldy rogue, away!

In Modern Terms: Get out, you disgusting jerk!

Source: Henry IV, Part 2, Act 2, scene 4

Shakespearean Insults for Liars and Cowards

Infinite and endless liar

Infinite and endless liar

In Modern Terms: A person who lies nonstop

Source: All’s Well That Ends Well, Act 3, scene 6

Hourly promise-breaker

Hourly promise-breaker- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: One who constantly goes back on their word and never keeps a promise

Source: All’s Well That Ends Well, Act 3, scene 6

Lily-liver’d

Lily-liver’d

In Modern Terms: Coward

Source: Macbeth, Act 5, scene 3

I am pigeon-liver’d and lack gall.

I am pigeon-liver’d and lack gall.

In Modern Terms: I’m a coward without any courage.

Source: Hamlet, Act 2, scene 2

He’s a most notable coward.

He's a most notable coward.- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: He’s an unbelievable coward.

Source: All’s Well That Ends Well, Act 3, scene 6

There’s no more faith in thee than in a stewed prune.

There’s no more faith in thee than in a stewed prune.

In Modern Terms: You’re no more loyal than a stewed prune.

Source: Henry IV Part 1, Act 3, scene 3

Foul-spoken coward, that thund’rest with thy tongue, and with thy weapon nothing dar’st perform.

Foul-spoken coward, that thund’rest with thy tongue, and with thy weapon nothing dar'st perform.- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: You’re all bark and no bite—you talk big but are too scared to follow up with actions.

Source: Titus Andronicus, Act 2, scene 1

Shakespearean Insults To Describe Dimwits

You three-inch fool!

You three-inch fool!

In Modern Terms: You little idiot!

Source: The Taming of the Shrew, Act 4, scene 1

Your abilities are too infant-like for doing much alone.

Your abilities are too infant-like for doing much alone.

In Modern Terms: You’re no more capable than a baby.

Source: Coriolanus, Act 2, scene 1

Froward and unable worms.

Froward and unable worms- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: Disobedient, incapable morons

Source: The Taming of the Shrew, Act 5, scene 2

His wit’s as thick as a Tewkesbury mustard.

His wit’s as thick as a Tewkesbury mustard.

In Modern Terms: He’s as dumb as a box of rocks.

Source: Henry IV Part 2, Act 2, scene 4

Thou hast no more brain than I have in mine elbows.

Thou hast no more brain than I have in mine elbows.- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: You have as much brain in your head as I do in my elbows.

Source: Troilus and Cressida, Act 2, scene 1

Thou art the cap of all the fools alive.

Thou art the cap of all the fools alive.

In Modern Terms: You’re the most foolish person on earth.

Source: Timon of Athens, Act 4, scene 3

More of your conversation would infect my brain.

More of your conversation would infect my brain.- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: If I keep talking to you, I’ll be sick.

Source: Coriolanus, Act 2, scene 1

His brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage.

His brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage

In Modern Terms: He’s as uninteresting and unintelligent as a stale cookie.

Source: As You Like It, Act 2, scene 7

He has not so much brain as earwax.

He has not so much brain as earwax.

In Modern Terms: There’s earwax where his brain should be.

Source: Troilus and Cressida, Act 5, scene 1

They have a plentiful lack of wit.

They have a plentiful lack of wit.- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: They completely lack intelligence.

Source: Hamlet, Act 2, scene 2

She hath more hair than wit, and more faults than hairs.

She hath more hair than wit, and more faults than hairs.

In Modern Terms: She’s not smart, and even worse, she’s full of flaws.

Source: Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act 3, scene 1

In civility thou seem’st so empty.

In civility thou seem'st so empty.- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: You have no personality.

Source: As You Like It, Act 2, scene 7

Shakespearean Insults That Are Especially Fun To Say

Scurvy companion

Scurvy companion

In Modern Terms: Despicable person

Source: Henry IV Part II, Act 2, scene 4

Bolting-hutch of beastliness

Bolting-hutch of beastliness- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: Big barrel of nastiness

Source: Henry IV Part 1, Act 2, scene 4

Gray iniquity

Gray iniquity- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: Old sinner

Source: Henry IV Part 1, Act 2, scene 4

Thou cream-faced loon

Thou cream-faced loon- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: You pale peasant

Source: Macbeth, Act 5, scene 3

Clay-brained guts

Clay-brained guts- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: Stupid idiot

Source: Henry IV Part 1, Act 2, scene 4

Knotty-pated fool

Knotty-pated fool- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: Idiotic blockhead

Source: Henry IV Part 1, Act 2, scene 4

Rampallian

Rampallian- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: Good-for-nothing scoundrel

Source: Henry IV Part 2, Act 2, scene 1

Fustilarian

Fustilarian

In Modern Terms: Big, clumsy oaf (more info)

Source: Henry IV Part 2, Act 2, scene 1

Crusty batch of nature

Crusty batch of nature- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: Disgusting mess of a person

Source: Troilus and Cressida, Act 5, scene 1

This leathern-jerkin, crystal-button, knot-pated, agate-ring, puke-stocking, caddis-garter, smooth-tongue, Spanish pouch!

This leathern-jerkin, crystal-button, knot-pated, agate-ring, puke-stocking, caddis-garter, smooth-tongue, Spanish pouch!

In Modern Terms: This badly dressed nobody! (Literally: This leather-jacketed, fake-diamond buttoned, thick-headed, brown-stockinged, fancy-ringed, cheap garter-wearing Spanish wine seller!)

Source: Henry IV Part 1, Act 2, scene 4

More Fantastic Shakespearean Insults

I’ll tickle your catastrophe.

I’ll tickle your catastrophe.- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: I’ll kick your butt!

Source: Henry IV Part 2, Act 2, scene 1

You are as a candle, the better part burnt out.

You are as a candle, the better part burnt out.

In Modern Terms: Your best days are behind you.

Source: Henry IV Part 2, Act 1, scene 2

The rankest compound of villainous smell that ever offended nostril

The rankest compound of villainous smell that ever offended nostril

In Modern Terms: The most disgusting thing that anyone ever smelled

Source: The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 3, scene 5

The tartness of his face sours ripe grapes.

The tartness of his face sours ripe grapes.- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: His stern expression scares everyone around him.

Source: Coriolanus, Act 5, scene 4

Whose face is not worth sun-burning.

Whose face is not worth sun-burning

In Modern Terms: A very ugly person

Source: Henry V, Act 5, scene 2

Whose tongue outvenoms all the worms of Nile.

Whose tongue outvenoms all the worms of Nile- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: A person who tells malicious lies

Source: Cymbeline, Act 3, scene 4

Would thou wouldst burst!

Would thou wouldst burst!

In Modern Terms: I wish you’d just die!

Source: Timon of Athens, Act 4, scene 3

Would thou wert clean enough to spit upon!

Would thou wert clean enough to spit upon!

In Modern Terms: You’re not even worth spitting on.

Source: Timon of Athens, Act 4, scene 3

You kiss by th’ book.

You kiss by th' book.- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: You kiss like you read a manual on the subject. (Note: Some interpret this as a compliment, as in “You kiss just like the hero of a romance.”)

Source: Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, scene 5

You have such a February face, so full of frost, of storm, and cloudiness.

You have such a February face, so full of frost, of storm, and cloudiness.

In Modern Terms: You look so angry and sad.

Source: Much Ado About Nothing, Act 5, scene 4

I will bite my thumb at them.

I will bite my thumb at them.

In Modern Terms: I’m giving them the finger.

Source: Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, scene 1

That kiss is as comfortless as frozen water to a starvèd snake.

That kiss is as comfortless as frozen water to a starvèd snake.- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: That kiss was cold and impersonal.

Source: Titus Andronicus, Act 3, scene 1

Young fry of treachery!

Young fry of treachery!- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: You disloyal child!

Source: Macbeth, Act 4, scene 2

Thy sin’s not accidental, but a trade.

Thy sin’s not accidental, but a trade.

In Modern Terms: You didn’t make an innocent mistake; you always do terrible things like this.

Source: Measure for Measure, Act 3, scene 1

A southwest blow on you and blister you all o’er.

A southwest blow on you and blister you all o’er.- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: I hope a cold wind tears you apart.

Source: The Tempest, Act 1, scene 2

Thou art a general offense.

Thou art a general offense.

In Modern Terms: You’re just a terrible person.

Source: All’s Well That Ends Well, Act 2, scene 3

There’s small choice in rotten apples.

There's small choice in rotten apples.

In Modern Terms: There’s no good choice when all the options are bad.

Source: The Taming of the Shrew, Act 1, scene 1

What, you egg?

What, you egg?- Shakespearean insults

In Modern Terms: What did you say, you immature child?

Source: Macbeth, Act 4, scene 2

Love these Shakespearean insults? Don’t miss Shakespeare Activities & Printables for the Classroom.

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