Cellar Door and Other Beautiful Words

When I was in seventh grade, my English teacher, Mrs. Dalack, announced to the class that some august body of language mavens (she didn’t call them that, but it’s been many years, so forgive me for forgetting who they were) decided that the words “cellar door” were the most beautiful words in the English language.

I remember reacting with disbelief. Cellar? Door?

Why those words?

I’d give a few points for “cellar” with the l’s making it sound musical. But the “r” sound in both words was harsh, not at all beautiful.

Who makes these decisions, anyway, I remember thinking?

What I think makes words beautiful are the many nuances that can be conveyed by using the variety of words available in English.


– Use the uncommon word – the word not listed in the computer thesaurus, not the first word you think of. (House can be home, abode, mansion, shack, residence, etc.)

– Find a word other than “awesome” to convey the amazing feat, activity, person or other instance that is being applauded.

– Develop sentences starting with words other than “the” and “it’s.”

– Replace the words: happy, sad, bad, good, nice, and other descriptors that have lost meaning from overuse.

– People like hearing their name, which makes it beautiful. Address someone by name, but not incessantly like customer service agents who are trained to say your name in every sentence.

– Use words that convey the meaning with their sounds – onomatopoetic words. Words like buzz, clank, beeping, snark (found in the urban dictionary), groan and others let you sense the meaning by the sound of the word.

– And perhaps the most evocative line is one from The Wizard of Oz – “There’s no place like home.” Home sounds most appealing, warm and welcoming.

What’s your vote for a beautiful word, phrase or writing you’ve seen lately?


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