Eager

David Crystal

Eager (adjective) full of keen desire, impatient longing

The modern sense was around in Shakespeare's time - it had been in English since c1400 - and he (or someone) used it in King Edward III when Salisbury talks of being "eager of revenge" (V.i.115). Today only people can be keen, not things or conditions - but in Early Modern English, anything could be eager. When Hamlet talks about the "eager air" (Hamlet, I.iv.2), he means it is biting. When George talks to Richard of vexing dead Clifford with "eager words" (Henry VI Part 3, II.vi.68), he means his words are cutting. In the Quarto texts of Hamlet, the Ghost tells Hamlet of a poison "like eager droppings into milk", meaning "sour". And King David talks of beating the English "with eager rods" (King Edward III, I.ii.25), meaning "fierce". The word had a much more intense set of meanings than it has today, and this intensity is found when it is used of people too. An "eager cry" (Richard II, V.iii.74) is more than just mildly excited - it is impetuously impassioned.

David Crystal is author, with Ben Crystal, of Shakespeare's Words, published by Penguin. A subscription website is available at www.shakespeareswords.com

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

David Crystal

Latest stories

Geoff Barton

Omicron, nativities and the DfE: Another fine mess

Schools are being told what to do by those with no concept of the reality of running a school - and it's only making an already tough situation a lot harder, explains Geoff Barton
Geoff Barton 3 Dec 2021
New headteachers - here are 9 things you need to know

Headteacher wellbeing and sources of 'streth'

Former headteacher Chris McDermott set out to find out the true causes of leader stress and support – and in doing so coined a whole new term, as he explains here
Chris McDermott 2 Dec 2021
Transdisciplinary learning: how to embed it in your school

Why you need a transdisciplinary curriculum

At the Aspirations Academies, six hours a week are dedicated to applied transdisciplinary learning - but how does it work? And should you apply something similar at your school?
Steve Kenning 2 Dec 2021