5 of the most beautiful words in the English language
I am endlessly fascinated by the vagaries and specificities of language, particularly when it comes to words which are difficult to translate because they encapsulate such a large or small concept. Check out some unique words in other languages or untranslatable words.
Here are 5 words I love, and that I believe to be some of the most beautiful in the English language:
apparition [ ap-uh-rish-uhn ]
a supernatural appearance of a person or thing, especially a ghost; a specter or phantom; wraith:a ghostly apparition at midnight.
anything that appears, especially something remarkable or startling:the surprising apparition of cowboys in New York City.
an act of appearing; manifestation.
Astronomy. the appearance or time when a comet, especially a periodic one, is visible:the 1986 apparition of Halley’s comet.
Origin: 1400–50; late Middle English apparicio(u)n < Anglo-French, Old French < Late Latin appāritiōn- (stem of appāritiō, as calque of Greek epipháneia epiphany), equivalent to Latin appārit(us) (past participle of appārēre
This has always been one of my favourite words, especially after hearing the rumour that it was one of many words that Shakespeare ‘invented‘ or at least brought into the common lexicon. As a child this resulted in me asking my English teacher why I couldn’t invent my own words too! *face palm*
I was happy to be reunited with this word when J.K. Rowling used ‘Apparition’ as a way to magically transport wizards and witches in the Harry Potter books.
coruscate, coruscating [ kawr-uh-skeyt, kor- ]
(verb) (used without object), cor·us·cat·ed, cor·us·cat·ing.
to emit vivid flashes of light; sparkle; scintillate; gleam.
Origin: 1695–1705; < Latin coruscātus past participle of coruscāre to quiver, flash
I just love how this describes something that is so shiny that it hurts – so, unlike sparkle or gleam, some that coruscates is sharper and more dangerous.
While reading the Dark Gifts series by Vic James (see my review of Book 1, Gilded Cage) , I was delighted to see this word used to describe the roof of the parliamentary building used by the Gifted magical elite, as it perfectly described to me their power – beautiful, but sharp-edged and dangerous.
ultracrepidarian (uhl-truh-krep-i-dair-ee-uh n )
(adjective) – noting or pertaining to a person who criticizes, judges, or gives advice outside the area of his or her expertise.
Origin: 1800–20; ultra- + Latin crepidam ‘sole of a shoe, sandal’ (< Greek krepis ‘shoe’); in allusion to the words of Pliny the Elder ne supra crepidam sutor judicare ‘let the cobbler not judge above the sandal’; cf. the English proverb “let the cobbler stick to his last”
This word just seems so pertinent to life today as everybody has an opinion and generally aren’t scared to share it online. There are so many cases of people criticizing others or opining about things they know very little about. This can be one of the downsides of the internet and online communities, although the internet also does also provide a platform for self-taught experts, etc.
sesquipedalian [ ses-kwi-pi-dey-lee-uh n, -deyl-yuh n ]
(adjective) Also ses·quip·e·dal [ses-kwip-i-dl] .
given to using long words.
(of a word) containing many syllables.
Origin: 1605–15; < Latin sēsquipedālis measuring a foot and a half.
This word is just fun to say, made even more fun by the definition of somebody who uses unnecessarily long words – just try saying it out loud and you’ll see!
mellifluous [ muh-lif-loo-uhs ]
(adjective) sweetly or smoothly flowing; sweet-sounding:a mellifluous voice; mellifluous tones.
flowing with honey; sweetened with or as if with honey.
Origin: 1375–1425; late Middle English < Late Latin mellifluus, equivalent to Latin melli- (stem of mel) honey + -flu(ere) to flow + -us adj. suffix (see -ous)
This is just a word that sounds like what it describes – a perfect piece of onomatopoeia! It reminds me of the fairytale stories where the antagonist would use chalk and honey to ‘sweeten’ their voice and pretend that they’re not the wolf in grandma’s clothing.
(Definitions from dictionary.com – click through to hear the pronunciation too)
Did you spot any of your favourites?
What are your favourite words in English?
Do you have any favourite words in other languages?
Check out some words that other people think of as beautiful:
32 of the most beautiful words in the English language from Buzzfeed
12 most beautiful words in English from Education First
70 most beautiful words in English from Curiosity via The British Council
15 Beautiful Words in English from FluentU
Thanks for reading!