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What are the most beautiful words in English?
If someone asked you to name the most beautiful word or phrase in English, how would you choose? Would it be based on the meaning of the word? How it sounds? How it is spelt?
There are some words, like “love,” “comely,” or “demure,” that seem like solid contenders. But the compound word that some believe to be the most inherently beautiful will likely come as a colossal surprise.
“Cellar door.” That’s no typo. In terms of phonaesthetics, cellar door is often held up as an example of the most euphonic sound combination. J.R.R. Tolkien, author of “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings,” is credited as one of the first to make this claim.
Phonaesthetics is the study of the euphony and cacophony of words without regard for semantics. Phonaesthetics derives from two Greek word parts that mean “voice-sound” and “aesthetics.”
(If you think “cellar door” is an odd choice, consider that some people “taste” letters and “hear” colors.
Euphony is used most commonly to describe the pleasing, agreeable sound effect of poetry. In general, vowel sounds are more euphonious. Cacophony, meaning harsh and discordant, is the opposite of euphony. Cacophony comes from the Greek word parts meaning “bad,” “evil,” and “voice.”
Say the words slowly: “cellar door.” Is the sound pleasing to your ears?
Let us know what you think the most beautiful words are in English and why.