The Most Beautiful Words in the English Language

Monday, May 42 min read

If you stop to absorb a stunning sunset or buy fresh flowers every week, you might appreciate the poetry of language as well. For words that sound as beautiful as their meanings, look no further. These words roll off the tongue with a rhythm that’ll have you saying them over and over.


You might recognize this word as short for aurora borealis (also known as the northern lights). "Aurora" can also be another word for dawn, so no matter what the connotation, an aurora is bright, colorful, and inspiring.


The definition of "mellifluous" also describes the word itself. "Mellifluous" means to have a pleasant, musical sound. You can practically sing the word. People typically use the word to describe someone’s voice. Male voices such as James Earl Jones and Morgan Freeman stand out, but we're also partial to the mellifluous tones of Kathleen Turner.


"Felicity" is a beautiful word — not just because of how it sounds, but also because of how it feels. "Felicity" means intense happiness. It can also mean that perfect satisfaction of finding the right words to express your thoughts. Given how hard it can be to express ourselves, felicity is any word lover’s dream.


Not all lovely words are long or even multisyllabic. "Lithe" is short, sweet, and evokes an image of grace. If you’ve ever seen a ballet dancer, you’ve seen "lithe" in person — lean, flexible, and agile.


This word’s rising and falling syllables make it true to its definition. "Scintillating" means sparkling (literally), or especially skillful and clever. It stands out in every sense —whether you say it or see it.


The beauty of this word comes from the intensity of its sound. When you say the word, it feels like it comes from deep within your chest. A visceral emotion comes from pure emotion with often no logic involved. The "viscera" are the internal organs in the abdomen, so "visceral" also refers to these bodily functions (though the intense, emotional definition is more poetic).


"Effervescent" is a word that makes you feel good. It is bubbly — both in a carbonated drink and in a person who brims with enthusiasm. Effervescent people usually have contagious laughter. You can’t help but love them.


"Gossamer" — with its hard “G" — might not be a word you'd expect to hear when discussing delicate things. Once you repeat it a few times, however, you feel how gentle it is. You feel the silkiness of the word and it starts to feel like a cloud you can sink into.


"Halcyon" sometimes refers to peaceful days gone by, which sounds like a dream. It’s also a bird — both real (a kingfisher) and mythical. The mythical version of a halcyon once lived at sea and had the power to calm water and wind.


The beauty of "surreptitious" comes from its sound, but also its mystery. The word itself is like a whisper, which is probably what you’re doing if you’re keeping secrets as the word implies.

Photo credit: Mike Swigunski/ Unsplash

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