Idiom: household word
Definition: common or familiar words, phrases, or names
Example: “Terms like greenhouse effect, ozone hole and global climate change are now household words which conjure up either concern or controversy.”—Using Lasers to Study Our Atmosphere, NASA
"Household word” is one of those idioms that has become so common that it could itself be described as a household word. Unlike many idiomatic expressions that have unknown origins, the origin of this idiom is well-documented.
Household word, like many other idioms that have themselves become household words, was coined by William Shakespeare. Its first appearance was in Henry V, written in 1598:
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Shakespeare was no slouch when it came to inventing words and phrases. Among the many common expressions attributed to the Bard are: “a fool’s paradise,” “fair play,” “foul play,” “good riddance,” “give the Devil his due,” “send him packing,” “short shrift,” “up in arms,” “woe is me,”salad days,” “love is blind,” “lie low,” “night owl,” “no rhyme nor reason,” “in stitches,” and “hot blooded,” to name but fifteen.
It’s worth noting that the word “household” was relatively new when Shakespeare was around. The word comes from middle English and combines “house” as in home, with “hold” meaning something in possession, to cover everything that was in possession of the owner of the house.