How does we determine whether or not a word is ‘beautiful’? In reality, there is no set way to do so, instead, we rely on a sort of ‘feeling’ that certain words (that only exist in some languages and not others) are able to encapsulate concepts with extreme precision or a pleasing sound.
The most beautiful words in the Japanese language
Japanese culture is so profoundly distant from Italian culture that it contain concepts and ideas we would never think of naming. It’s precisely for this reason that Japanese words are irresistibly charming to Italian speakers, often touching on the concepts of reflexivity, awareness, serenity and philosophy.
Komorebi: the Japanese considered it entirely necessary to come up with a word that describes the sun’s rays filtering through the trees.
Yugen: a word with a meaning so subtle and layered that it is completely untranslatable, mainly because it can vary greatly depending on the context. It can describe the hidden beauty of the universe and the sense of mystery that pervades us when faced with the perfection of the cosmos. In art and literature, it often describes things that cannot be fully understood and is sometimes translated as ‘symbolism.’
Shoganai: a word that means to move on and accept things that happen outside of our control without letting ourselves be beaten by life’s adversities.
Shoshin: the things that keep the world moving, i.e. a desire and energy to do things but, at the same time, a fear of making mistakes and an eagerness to learn new things.
The most beautiful words in the Italian language
The Italian language contains a lot of words that we no longer use but should perhaps take the time to rediscover due to their pleasant sound, or ‘euphony’ (another beautiful word we should use more often).
A quick note: according to Fabrizio De André, the word ‘nuvola’ (cloud) is a real gem in the Italian language and one that’s held very dear to the hearts of poets and songwriters. The reason is simple: it’s a rare proparoxytone (i.e. a word with the stress on the third-to–last syllable) and is endowed with a very sweet sound.
Girandolare: to turn here and there without a determined goal, to wander.
Soqquadro: a word that all Italian students will be familiar with because it’s the only Italian word with two Qs. It is essentially used to describe an utter shambles.
Precipitevolissimevolmente: a lengthy adverb that looks like a tongue twister and describes something being done in a hurry.
Zuzzurellone: the last Italian word in the dictionary, and the one with the most Zs. It essentially refers to an overgrown schoolboy who spends his time joking around.
A… horrible word
We bring this short list of the world’s most beautiful words to a close with a term from the ancient Wyandot language spoken by Native Americans. It’s a word that very much resembles the Italian adjective for horrendous (orrendo) despite having a very beautiful meaning.
For Native Americans belonging to the Iroquois tribes, the word ‘orenda’ describes human will to change the world. It’s a characteristic that is attributed to the Major Arcana ‘magician’ tarot card. Despite being such a powerful concept in almost every culture around the globe, most other languages have to resort to lengthier expressions to describe the same concept.