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Richard Nordquist

The Most Beautiful Words

By May 16, 2012

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Over the years there have been countless playful surveys of the most beautiful-sounding words in English. Perennial favorites include lullaby, gossamer, murmuring, luminous, Aurora Borealis, and velvet. But not all recommendations have been so predictable--or so obviously euphonious. . . .

For the complete article, see Beautiful Words: Competitions and Composition.


May 16, 2012 at 2:51 am
(1) Amy says:

I’ll never forget the first time I heard this line from Coleridge’s ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’: ‘Her skin was as white as leprosy.’

At the time I had no idea what leprosy was, but there was no doubt that this was the most beautiful sounding word I’d ever heard.

May 21, 2012 at 11:03 am
(2) pisatel6 says:

My favorites are fontanel and chlamydia.

May 21, 2012 at 11:07 am
(3) George DelMonte says:

For me, the most beautiful word is, “Opalescent.” The image it evokes is lustrous and tinged with mystery.

May 21, 2012 at 11:43 am
(4) Claudine says:

My favorite beautiful word is terpsichorean. Start it in soft voice, caressing the t and it flows appropriately for its meaning.

My favorite for mouth feel is, well, are lump pamphlet.

May 21, 2012 at 11:54 am
(5) andre harris says:

I suggest Iridescent or Evanescence
I don’t know why but for me qualities like are the most beautiful there is something intangible and tantalising about them.

May 21, 2012 at 12:25 pm
(6) Eddie says:

“You’re hired.” I also like the sound of effervescence.

May 21, 2012 at 1:07 pm
(7) betty says:

I enjoyed that excercise very much.

May 21, 2012 at 2:24 pm
(8) mike hayward says:

In Elysium, I walked the marbled halls of Linoleum,
dreaming of halycion days of yore.
Alas, that time forever gone;
Linoleum is no more.

- Mike Hayward

May 21, 2012 at 2:30 pm
(9) mike hayward says:

In Elysium fields, I walked the marbled halls of Linoleum
In King Halycion days of yore.
Alas, only memory remains;
Linoleum is no more.
– Mike Hayward

May 21, 2012 at 2:45 pm
(10) John Luther says:

love is beautiful and beautiful is beautiful

May 22, 2012 at 12:31 am
(11) F. Hodges says:

I nominate diarrhea. It trips off the tongue and hardly touches it.

May 22, 2012 at 1:57 am
(12) magna says:


May 22, 2012 at 2:37 pm
(13) Brian Sullivan says:

I had a high school English teacher who said that cherish was her favorite word since the sibilance of the final syllable made word sound like it in never ended: “cherishhhhhhhhhh…
I said I felt the same way about flushhhhhhhh….

May 22, 2012 at 2:48 pm
(14) Andrew says:

It seems to me that a pretty high proportion of these words are ones that have been lifted directly from another (Romance) language, or at least had their direct roots in a foreign word and haven’t been very much changed in being imported into English.

May 24, 2012 at 2:41 am
(15) philip joshua says:


May 25, 2012 at 1:44 pm

The first time I heard the word PULCHRITUDE,I tripped,

June 4, 2012 at 9:27 am
(17) jennifer says:

Cerulean conjures up a very balmy picture.

February 19, 2013 at 3:25 pm
(18) HillRunner says:


Now that’s a word!

February 20, 2013 at 2:31 am
(19) prof. Rais Alvi says:

This is a good execise or test for those who are involved in writing fiction/ poetry.It is the matter of indivdual aesthetics and sense of social values.
In my opinion the most beautiful words are : Aroma , Ethos and Ambience.
Thank you for the very informative and interesting discussion.

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