Category Archives: The Beauty of Words

Words That Make You Happy …

… for no other reason than the sheer pleasure they give you when you hear them or the happy associations they create for you. There are probably lots of words that make you happy as there are for me.  A smile always comes across my face when I read/hear the following (just a small number that spring to immediate mind):

Asinine – Always have believed this should really be spelled Ass -inine but there again that’s rather silly or stupid probably.

Bifurcate – No, it’s not (as I once thought and still wish it to be) to burp but only to divide into two branches – to fork.  A real opportunity missed there I think.

Inglenook – Warm and cosy place to be in the fireside of a sixteenth century coaching inn on a cold wintry night,


Lollipop – Say it out loud and you can just taste that sticked sugary confection.  The tongue picks up the ‘loll’ and your lips the ‘pop’.  Yummy!


Obsequious – Charles Dickens must have made the character Uriah Heep in David Copperfield with this word very much to the forefront of his mind.  This sickeningly respectful creep just oozes smarm; can’t you just feel his limp fish-like handshake.  Ugh!  Yet fawningly brilliant.  So, this word always makes me think of the character and makes me happy.


Smoodge – There can never be enough ooooooo’s in smoodge.  It’s what my cats do when they’re being friendly.  Supposedly an Australian and New Zealand word that means behaving amorously; sidling up to one.  More fittingly inherited by all mogs of the world.

Waistcoat – There is a quote from HC Wyld, professor of English, Oxford University about 1923 in the book “CS Lewis – A Biography”  by AN Wilson, 1990 which I love and which always makes me much amused: “You’re the sort of people who would say ‘waist-coat’, rather than use the old-fashioned, gentlemanly pronunciation ‘westcut”.  Westcut it is for me!  And most definitely not vest.



Words That Sound Beautiful – Beauty is in the Ear of the Beholder

As has already been mentioned in an earlier post, the purpose of this website is to provide the reader with words which have the sense of being beautiful, either through their construction or the images they bring to our minds.

Now, what is beautiful to one is not necessarily beautiful to another and I am not looking to brook any argument but simply to promote what I recognise as words that sound beautiful to me and hopefully you, too.

The actual meaning doesn’t always have to be known to appreciated the way the word sounds and for a long time I had absolutely no idea what Antediluvian meant only that it sounded beautiful.  The softness of the consonants undoubtedly make it so.

I have learned that the word actually means “concerning or referring to the period before the flood” (OED) – i.e. belonging to a time before even Noah was a lad – and this has only helped increase the loveliness of its sound.

Building_of_the_ark_(Bedford_Master)_2 (The Building of the Ark (Bedford Masters))

The fact that it is often used in a disparaging way to suggest someone belonging to a world long-past and antiquated made it resonate with me even further as I surely fit that bill admirably.

Antediluvian is added to the Word list.


Words That Sound Like Sounds: Onomatopoeia Sizzles!

Great word Onomatopoeia, isn’t it?

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines the word as “the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named (e.g. cuckoo, sizzle)”.  Put another way, words that sound like sounds.  I have always been deeply moved by Wilfred Owen’s line in the First World War poem Anthem for Doomed Youth:  “the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle“.

This website is dedicated to the beauty and meaning of words.  The former is of course in the eye of the beholder while meaning is supposedly to be determined by the reader or listener and not the writer.  I am more concerned with the effect of words, what they conjure up in our imaginations rather than their literal meanings.

There is no way that the subject matter of Anthem for Doomed Youth is beautiful, but there is beauty in how “stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle” sounds.  The alliteration and onomatopoeic effect which it creates gives us that pleasure.

And there are lots more words that sound like sounds – sizzle, tweet, whizz, zoom for example and lots more – but I am more interested in the music and elegance that words project and the images they convey to you, the listener-reader.

I think of how Schweppes have used their name onomatopoeically to conjure up the sound of a tonic water bottle cap being twisted to release that “ssshhh” sound, but more intriguingly for me is the word that is associated with that ssshhh:  effervescence.  That’s a word where you can hear that fizz and see the bubbles.  Even more so in the pouring of Champagne.


So cheers and we’ll add effervescence to our Word List.


Writers, Students, Lovers of Cool Words

Be Sensible

Feelings generated within us enable the meaning of words to make sense in the context of our own selves.  Not the word’s definition or etymology but the effect it has on us.  This may well have begun in childhood and will therefore rely on our subconscious remembrance of what  word meanings evoke in our imaginations – the sensations they create in us.

Is the word one which makes us happy, sad, reflective, thoughtful?  Does it have an impact on our senses – Sight, Sound, Touch, Vision, Smell?

Smell?  How can a word smell, you may ask?  Easy.  What comes to mind with the word Sulphur, for instance?  Can’t you just smell that burnt match, that rotten egg aroma?  Even the spent match“fuh” sound in the word conjures up something unpleasant on the nose!

Well, it does for me and I am certain it will have an effect for you – whether it is the same as mine depends upon how you derive a meaning of the word and if it is a different meaning fine, neither of us is wrong, we just have differing connections with the word.

I guess in one way we are considering the poetics of words but that is limiting the scope of how we find meaning in words somewhat.  Poetics deals with the sound of words and that is great, but what about the visual element of a word?

In a word like building  you can see the high-rise apartments and homes or offices intermingled here in the artistic structure of the letters of the word.tall buildings

One of my favourite words comes from my schooldays when my English teacher asked the class to consider the word Handkerchief.  It conjures up lace cuffs and an eighteenth century coat or demure ladies in crinolines trying to overcome the effects of the ’vapours’.  It is an evocative word.

It is a peculiarity of language that we must use words to describe words, synonyms, but hopefully you will now recognise that there are other ways of taking meaning from words and you will join me in this wonderfully sensuous journey as we consider the Beauty and Meaning of English Words.

English Words

In speaking of English words, I am referring to words which are now accepted as words used in the communication of the English tongue.  Origins of many words will be Latin, French, German, Anglo-Saxon, Indian and so on;  it is this wonderful intermingling of different languages that make English such a varied and often bemusing one.   That however is not of concern in defining what an English word is in the context of this website.  Let others argue whether a word belongs in the English dictionary or not because it is from Arabic descent and not of Teutonic root.  We have other fish to fry.

That colloquialism reminds me to say that occasionally the word under consideration may in fact be two or three word combinations, such as Cui Bono.  Yes, I know, it’s Latin but it is now part of the English language, so who gains by this?  We do!