By on June 9th, 2012

A long time ago a friend opined that the most beautiful word in the English language was syphilis.  You could hear in his delivery that he hadn’t thought it up himself.  He was an acquaintance really.

Well I recently googled beautiful words — and there was a stack of lists, each 100 Most Beautiful Words in English.  A trove.  A wealth of words.  But ailurophile?  It means a cat-lover, which I am, but I’ve never heard it pronounced.  Have you?  You’ve heard of syphilis.

In four of the five lists I consulted, ailurophile appears.  Alarming, yes?  In three of them it’s Beautiful Word Number One.  Followed by assemblage.  And beleaguer.  Beleaguer??  A lumpy word, not a bit mellifluous.  The –guer is not pronounced a la francais, it’s spoken “-ger” as in grrrrrrrr.

Or if you’re going for beautiful meanings in these lists, you’ll find your beleaguer beleaguered.

The lists have more identical words than they do dissenting ones. We can’t agree on creamy vs chunky and these folks are trolling through Merriam-Webster’s some 165,000 entries and catching mostly the same fish?  Credulity strained.

Why list beautiful words if you don’t stop and play with the sound of them — don’t enjoy rolling them around in your mouth, tinkle one against the swoosh of another?  Why bother?   Post about petunias instead.  Cheeseburger relishes.

After a lifetime love affair with the sounds and polished nuances of English, I’ve been goaded to offer you my alternative list.  Please feel free to augment, dismember or enshrine it.

Maybe the 100 Most Beautiful Words in the English Language

  1. amorous
  2. ashimmer
  3. ameliorate
  4. aulophilia  (affinity for or aroused by flutes)
  5. balloon
  6. buffalo
  7. cantilever
  8. centrifugal
  9. chafing
  10. chamois
  11. chronology
  12. cilia
  13. cornucopia
  14. corpuscular
  15. culmination
  16. curlicue
  17. cushion
  18. Cyrillic
  19. doofus
  20. dwindle
  21. ebullient
  22. embellish
  23. empathy
  24. ensemble
  25. epiphany
  26. esophagus
  27. especially
  28. estrous
  29. euonymus
  30. euthanasia
  31. facility
  32. falafel
  33. fallacious
  34. fallopian
  35. flimsy
  36. fluency
  37. Halloween
  38. hallucination
  39. harmonious
  40. Hershey
  41. hilarious
  42. hollowware
  43. horripilation
  44. hula
  45. humane
  46. humorous
  47. inebriate
  48. lamina
  49. larboard
  50. luscious
  51. luminous
  52. malleable
  53. mallow
  54. mammal
  55. marine
  56. melanin
  57. mellifluous
  58. melodious
  59. merciful
  60. misnomer
  61. muffle
  62. muon
  63. nymphomania
  64. omphalos
  65. pacify
  66. panoply
  67. parsimonious
  68. paucity
  69. pellucid
  70. pendulum
  71. penumbra
  72. Permian
  73. phosphorus
  74. piffle
  75. plangent
  76. plenary
  77. pliable
  78. possum
  79. pufferbelly
  80. pulmonary
  81. Rastafarian
  82. rhomboid
  83. riparian
  84. salacious
  85. salinity
  86. senescence
  87. sensuous
  88. shallow
  89. shambles
  90. sheepish
  91. shimmy
  92. simian
  93. smithereens
  94. supercilious
  95. superfluous
  96. swaddling
  97. syllabus
  98. unison
  99. whither
  100. yellow

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The 100 Most Beautifuls:

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I offer these as a few examples of sites that really do care about words:

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