King James Bible Influences English Language Centuries Later
The King James Bible’s affect on the English language is still being felt 400 years after it was first published. No other book has had a greater impact on the way English is spoken and written than the King James Bible. Its phrases have infiltrated the everyday language of English speakers. Most probably don’t even know that they are quoting the Bible.
Some of the phrases from the holy text that are often used today include:
- “Gave up the ghost” ~ Genesis 35:29
- “Take root” ~ 2 Kings 19:30
- “Out of the mouth of babes” ~ Psalms 8:2
- “A fly in the ointment” ~ Ecclesiastes 10:1
- “No peace for the wicked” ~ Isaiah 57: 21
- “Put words in thy mouth” ~ Jeremiah 1:9
- “Feet of clay” ~ Daniel 2:33
- “Wheels within wheels” ~ Ezekiel 10:10
- “Salt of the earth” ~ Matthew 5:13
- “The blind leading the blind” ~ Matthew 15:13
- “Turned the world upside down” ~ Acts 17:6
- “God forbid” ~ Romans 3:4
- “The powers that be” ~ Romans 13:1
- “Filthy lucre” ~ 1 Timothy 3:3
- “Fought the good fight” ~ 2 Timothy 4:7
There are a few good reasons why expressions from the King James Bible would pervade English. Beginning with its publication in 1611, it was once daily reading for millions of people throughout the English speaking world. It was extensively read aloud in churches. Over time, readers and listeners absorbed its language and repeated it in communication and writings. Influential people, particularly in London, amplified the effect for centuries to come.
The King James Bible and the works of famous Londoner William Shakespeare entered the scene at a formative stage of English’s development. The imprints of both are evident on the language. The Bible introduced 257 phrases, while Shakespeare coined about 100. In contrast, Shakespeare invented about 1,000 new words, including “frugal” and “generous,” while the English Bible introduced only 40 or so, like “backsliding” and “battering ram”.
The Authorized King James Version is an English translation by the Church of England. Its creation was conceived by King James I in response to the perceived problems of the earlier translations. Completed in 1611, it was the third such official translation into English.
Sara Duane-Gladden is as a freelance writer living in the Minneapolis – St. Paul Twin Cities Area of Minnesota. She also writes and maintains the True to Words language blog. Follower her on Twitter at @SaraDuane.