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Mellifluous, loquacious and scintillating



When thinking of good words, apparently, it's hard to separate them from their meanings. The site alphaDictionary has compiled its selection of the 100 most beautiful words in English (via Nigel Beale) -- in its entirety here or after the jump, with definitions. The list, when recited, is quite beautiful, and the words, for the most part, are familiar rather than obscure: adroit, champagne, dulcet, ebullient, efflorescence, paean, rhapsody.

There is a plethora (on the list) of words whose meanings are halcyon (on the list), even effervescent (on the list). If you try, you can find the negative -- surreptitious and beleaguer are both on the list -- but the victory would be Pyrrhic (on the list); anyone who can't enjoy the serendipity (on the list) of discovering diaphanous and ingenue together (both on the list) risks being called jejune (on the list).

You might have noticed a preponderance (not on the list) of words that don't sound particularly English. There does seem to be a definite Francophile (not on the list) bent to the words that made the grade. Is it the pretty, soft sounds? The unusual vowel pairings? The (not on the list) je ne sais quoi?

I'd suggest two more words for the list: copasetic (all good) and callipygean (I'll let you look it up). What words would you add?

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Lonely Angel CP via Flickr

1 adroit Dexterous, agile.
2 adumbrate To very gently suggest.
3 aestivate To summer, to spend the summer.
4 ailurophile A cat-lover.
5 beatific Befitting an angel or saint.
6 beleaguer To exhaust with attacks.
7 blandiloquent Beautiful and flattering.
8 caliginous Dark and misty.
9 champagne An effervescent wine.
10 chatoyant Like a cat’s eye.
11 chiaroscuro The arrangement of dark and light elements in a picture.
12 cockle A heart-shaped bivalve or a garden flower.
13 colporteur A book peddler.
14 conflate To blend together, to combine different things.
15 cynosure A focal point of admiration.
16 desuetude Disuse.
17 diaphanous Filmy.
18 diffuse Spread out, not focused or concentrated.
19 dulcet Sweet, sugary.
20 ebullient Bubbling with enthusiasm.
21 effervescent Bubbly.
22 efflorescence Flowering, the opening of buds or a bloom.
23 elixir A good potion.
24 emollient A softener.
25 encomium A spoken or written work in praise of someone.
26 ephemeral Short-lived.
27 epicure A person who enjoys fine living, especially food and drink.
28 epiphany A sudden revelation.
29 erstwhile At one time, for a time.
30 eschew To reject or avoid.
31 esculent Edible.
32 esoteric Understood only by a small group of specialists.
33 ethereal Gaseous, invisible but detectable.
34 etiolate White from no contact with light.
35 evanescent Vanishing quickly, lasting a very short time.
36 exuberant Enthusiastic, excited.
37 felicitous Pleasing.
38 fescue A variety of grass favored for pastures.
39 foudroyant Dazzling.
40 fragile Very, very delicate.
41 fugacioius Running, escaping.
42 gambol To skip or leap about joyfully.
43 glamour Beauty.
44 gossamer The finest piece of thread, a spider’s silk.
45 halcyon Happy, sunny, care-free.
46 hymeneal Having to do with a wedding.
47 imbricate To overlap to form a regular pattern.
48 imbroglio An altercation or complicated situation.
49 imbue To infuse, instill.
50 incipient Beginning, in an early stage.
51 ingenue A naive young woman.
52 inglenook The place beside the fireplace.
53 inspissate To thicken.
54 inure To jade.
55 jejune Dull; childish.
56 lagniappe A gift given to a customer for their patronage.
57 lagoon A small gulf or inlet in the sea.
58 languor Listlessness, inactivity.
59 lassitude Weariness, listlessness.
60 laughter The response to something funny.
61 lilt To move musically or lively, to have a lively sound.
62 lithe Slender and flexible.
63 loquacious Talkative.
64 luxuriant Thick, lavish.
65 mellifluous Sweet-sounding.
66 missive A message or letter.
67 moiety One of two equal parts, a half.
68 mondegreen A misanalyzed phrase.
69 nebulous Foggy.
70 niveous Snowy, snow-like.
71 obsequious Fawning, subservience.
72 odalisque A concubine in a harem.
73 oeuvre A work.
74 offing That part of the sea between the horizon and the offshore.
75 onomatopoeia The creation of words by imitating sound.
76 paean A formal expression of praise.
77 palimpsest A manuscript written over one or more earlier ones.
78 panacea A complete solution for all problems.
79 panoply A complete set.
80 pastiche A mixture of art work (art or music) from various sources.
81 peccadillo A peculiarity.
82 pelagic Related to the sea or ocean.
83 penumbra A half-shadow, the edge of a shadow.
84 peregrination Wandering, travels.
85 petrichor The smell of earth after a rain.
86 plethora A great excess, overabundance.
87 porcelain A fine white clay pottery.
88 potamophilous Loving rivers.
89 propinquity An inclination or preference.
90 Pyrrhic Victorious despite heavy losses.
91 quintessential The ultimate, the essence of the essence.
92 redolent Sweet-smelling.
93 rhapsody A beautiful musical piece.
94 riparian Having to do with the bank of a river or other body of water.
95 ripple A small, circular wave emanating from a central point.
96 scintillate To sparkle with brilliant light.
97 sempiternal Forever and ever.
98 seraglio Housing for a harem.
99 serendipity Finding something while looking for something else.
100 surreptitious Sneaky.
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soliloquy - from latin - a speech given by an actor as an aside to an audience; talking to oneself

palindrome - from greek - 'running back and forth'; a word spelled the same forward and back

adroit? eschew? rhapsody? meh.




; ) AW

I think a too-fast growing number of Americans would agree that the three most beautiful words in the English language in January, 2009, are, "you are hired".

Perhaps you could come up with an equally mind-numbing and vacuous list of, say, the world's best colors.

In my view, the most beautiful in the list is "mellifluous ".

And the ugliest word in today's conversations? "Like" (as in, "So I was, like, ..."

At the risk of sophomoric anal retentiveness or, heaven forbit, sesquipedalianism, I prefer callipygean be spelled callipygian. But then I have often been accused of being logorrheic.

You missed "limerence" - an involuntary cognitive and emotional state of intense romantic desire for another person

"Accrual" has a pleasing sound.

pellucid, delightful

Adjectives are interestingly over-represented. In some cases, at the expense of a "more beautiful" noun. I'll take quintessence over quintessential in a beauty contest any day. Not sure where "hymeneal" came from. Really? Beautiful? But I'm OK with anything that gets people to pay attention to words a bit more.

affluence, elegance, delicious, exquisite, brilliance, magnanimous, allegorical, philanthropic, daliance, reminisant, melancoly, effervescence

What am I, chopped liver?





More vocab to learn!
Wonderful list.

The definition for propinquity found here is at the margin of definitions in the OED. OED: Propinquity = closeness in space; neighborhood, proximity. I girl I new in high school in Ventura who often used the word, thinking that propinquity would induce romantic preference.




In what sense are any of the meanings halcyon?

And let's not forget those nice woody words:
gone, sausage, seemly, prodding, vacuum, bound, foal, recidivist, caribou, intercourse, ocelot, wasp, yowling


Haha -- great article, the way it was written gave me a good laugh. :)

OK everyone. Your homework for tonight is to use all 100 words in a sentence.

Enjoyed! Thanks!

Some words were misspelled and therefore useless. I tried to find petrichor to see how it is pronounced - how wonderful to find a work for the smell of the earth after a rain! but it does not exist. Also fugacioius - how is it really spelled? Did you just make this stuff up? HOWEVER, 'hymeneal' made it all worthwhile. I love that one! Gets right to the heart of the meaning!
Please tell me the correct spelling of petrichor.

William Safire wherefore art thou? Why oh why is the replacement invariably a nattering nabob of nidering conservative chrestomathy?

And then there are Dorothy Parker's candidates for the two most beautiful words in the English language: "check enclosed".

Great! You just gave the crossword puzzle writers a whole new batch of words to confound us!


i thought peccadillo meant a minor sin or fault. so did Mr. Webster. often used to describe an adventure

Years ago I read an article about a study of French men who were learning English. The most beautiful English words, in a poll of these men, were "cellardoor" and "swallow" -- just from their sound. And if you say them out loud, and listen, you might agree.


On of the most beautiful words:

"Prosody" meaning the melody of speech...

It's funny how overwhelmingly Latinate the list is, reflecting some insecurity about the rough Saxon pleasures of the English language. What about "howl" and "gnash" or "hurt"? Is "inglenook" really the best that our curled throaty Saxon heritage has to offer?

(I also like "limpid".)

It's actually callipygian not callipygean.


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