British Council conducted a survey about the most beautiful words in the English language. Over 35,000 learners of English participated in the survey. The top ten list of words looks like this:
- Äiti (mother)
- Rakkaus (love)
- Rakas (loved one, dear)
- Kiitos (thanks, thank you)
- Lumi (snow)
- Kaunis (beautiful)
- Kulta (while the primary meaning of this word is 'gold', it is often used as a term of endearment, the way 'honey' is used in English)
- Usva (mist)
- Aamu (morning)
- Koti (home)
As you can see, 'mother' and 'love' are the only two words these lists have in common, with 'love' second on the Finnish list and fourth on the English one. I am tempted to observe that on the English list, there are more abstract concepts, such as 'freedom', 'liberty', 'destiny' etc., while the Finnish list has more words referring to nature – 'snow', 'mist' – and everyday things – 'home', 'morning'. However, as these were two separate surveys, comparing their results may not be very useful.
Now, poets are obviously masters in thinking of the rights words. Five poets give their opinions on beautiful words here.
And my favourite?
Let me think...
No, it's impossible! Don't make me choose! There are too many beautiful words, and I'll remember the best ones only after I've posted this... or tomorrow, or next week, or years later. Yes, I need the rest of my life to think about this, to carefully choose the most beautiful words (actually, that is just the kind of thing I'd want to do)! But all right, off the top of my head...
Finnish: laulu (song), lintu (bird), laine (wave – as in water... or in one's hair), metsä (forest), kuulas (clear or transparent; it is a word often used to describe weather, light, sky), hiljaisuus (silence), vanamo (twinflower), venho (archaic form of 'vene', boat), virvatuli (will-o'-the-wisp), varpu (twig or brush, such as where bilberries grow)
And English: love, lively, ember, willow, aglow, autumnal, evenfall, spirit, ethereal, sylvan
Words are evocative. They bring to mind memories, they arouse feelings. How we feel about words is very subjective. Therefore, I would love to hear your opinion – what do you think is the most beautiful word? In any language!