Most Beautiful Words

A reposting of a list of 100 Most Beautiful Words in the English Language has me wondering what my own favorites would be.

For example, bucolic doesn’t make my list. Its meaning, in a lovely rural setting, certainly qualifies, and that definition chimes beautifully in the ear, but bucolic’s cacophonous sound suggests it would mean sick cow.

Nor do I care for long latinate words when a more accessible word will do. I prefer cat lover to ailurophile.

I  concur on onomatopeia and panacea, but my favorite word has to be lullaby.

Remember when Bert and Ernie of Sesame Street sang the L song? Bert had “light bulb and lamp post,” while Ernie advocated the “lilting and lovely ones” like “laughter, lullaby, lollypop.” So Bert the boring came up with “linoleum!” The humor came in juxtaposing a melodic word with its pedestrian meaning.

For me, the most beautiful word captures the precise meaning you’re looking for, its phonetic symbolism matches its meaning, and its cadence fits the prosody of your passage. Good thing we can rummage around in this language with the largest vocabulary available; with a half million words to choose from, sometimes we can have it all.

What would you nominate as a most beautiful word?

1 Comment

  1. My favorite words are all ridiculous. “Murp” is among the most useful– a universal answer to the unanswerable questions of life. “Frumious” and “Bandersnatch” (Carroll) are up there. But beautiful words?

    Symphonic. Cascade. Mumbling. Lugubrious. Exonerate. Resonance. Vulnerable. Forsooth.

    That list of 100 seems inaccurate to me– some of the words are associated more with other languages than English and aren’t that aurally or visibly attractive anyway. I do like sumptuous, though. But my sentiments on the language are probably quite biased in this conversation because the author of this blog, my mom, has had quite the influence on my literary education.


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