One of the greatest pleasures of learning a new language is discovering its unsuspected peculiarities. And while language learners can do with less-detailed grammar and conjugation, they certainly enjoy new, unusual vocabulary and beautiful-sounding words. The following words do just that — some sound so lovely they could be repeated over and over for a hefty dose of ASMR goodness while others have such a poetic definition they’re heartwarming. Expand your vocabulary with the following 23 cool words, which are, in our opinion, some of the most beautiful words in the world.
1. Spookasem (Afrikaans)
While the term translates directly as “ghost’s breath” (spook means “ghost” and asem means “breath”) spookasem is used by Afrikaans speakers to refer to cotton candy. It’s much more beautiful than what the spun sugar confection that will rot your teeth deserves.
2. Kaamos (Finnish)
Kaamos is the Finnish word for “polar night,” a period of darkness that lasts more than 24 hours and a phenomenon that happens within the polar circles. But kaamos also holds a more emotional meaning as it is used to describe a feeling of longing for sunshine and a lack of enthusiasm that comes with little daylight.
3. Hiraeth (Welsh)
Hiraeth is a Welsh word that not only sounds beautiful but also has an elegant and poetic meaning. According to BBC Travel, “it combines elements of homesickness, nostalgia and longing. Interlaced, however, is the subtle acknowledgment of an irretrievable loss — a unique blend of place, time and people that can never be recreated.”
4. Hanyauku (Rukwangali)
Rukwangali, a Bantu language centered primarily in Namibia, has this word for “tiptoeing across hot sand.”
5. Mellifluous (English)
The smooth, flowy “mellifluous” might have one of the most apt definitions of any English word: It means “a sound that is pleasing to hear.” Honorable mention to the similarly onomatopoeic words “euphonic,” “symphonious,” and “sonorous.”
6. Nakakapagpabagabag (Tagalog)
Nakakapagpabagabag is the coolest word. It cures what it defines: It translates to “something that creates anxiety or uneasiness,” but there’s no way anyone can try saying it without feeling anything but delight and amusement afterward.
7. Kæreste (Danish)
The lovely sounding Danish word for “dearest” or, more commonly, “girlfriend/boyfriend.”
8. Cryptoscopophilia (English)
The desire to look into the windows of homes as you walk past them.
9. Rimjhim (Hindi)
A cool word that described the gentle sound of rain tapping against a surface.
10. Komorebi (Japanese)
Komorebi is a beautiful word, but its definition is even better: “The light filtering through the trees.”
11. Fernweh (German)
Fernweh is a German word that is used to describe the feeling of missing a place you’ve never been.
12. Ubuntu (Zulu)
A Zulu term that, aside from sounding beautiful, represents a philosophy of common humanity and conveys the idea that community is essential to society. It’s part of the phrase “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu,” which literally translates as “I am because we are.” The term was used by US President Barack Obama in 2018 in a speech in South Africa in celebration of Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday.
13. Mångata (Swedish)
The reflection of the moon on the water.
14. Dauwtrappen (Dutch)
Dauwtrappen literally translates as “dew treading” and refers to the feeling of walking barefoot on dew-covered morning grass.
15. Acaronar (Catalan)
In Catalan, the word acaronar means to gently pull someone closer to you.
16. Abendrot (German)
In German, abendrot directly translates to “evening red” and refers to the sunset.
17. Torpe (Filipino)
In Tagalog, torpe means to adore someone but be too shy to pursue them romantically. This meaning of torpe is a modern evolution of the term, which initially just meant “shy.” Note that torpe can also mean “stupid,” so be careful of the context in which you hear or use this word.
18. Chuchoter (French)
The French word for “whisper,” chuchoter manages to be beautiful and onomatopoetic. It’s the perfect word if you’re into the tingling sensations of ASMR.
19. Gjensynsglede (Swedish)
While gjensynsglede is a hard-to-pronounce Swedish word, its delightful meaning makes up for its overload of consonants. According to the hilariously intellectual British panel show Quite Interesting, gjensynsglede means “the joy of meeting up with someone you haven’t seen a while.” And in 2021, it’s fair to say that we all crave gjensynsglede.
20. Mono-no aware (Japanese)
According to BBC Culture and Mari Fujimoto in her book Ikigai and Other Japanese Words to Live by, mono-no aware describes the impermanent nature of beauty and “the quietly elated, bittersweet feeling of having been witness to the dazzling circus of life — knowing that none of it can last.”
21. Tu’burni (Arabic)
Tu’burni literally translates as “bury me.” It refers to the desire to die before the person you love so you never have to live without them.
22. Tárvotur (Icelandic)
“Wet with tears.”
23. Mir (Russian)
Mir is a short and beautiful word that holds two very different, yet equally important, meanings in modern Russian: “World” and “Peace.”
The two meanings become very significant in the context of the Soviet/Russian Mir Space Station, which launched in 1986 in the middle of the Cold War and orbited the Earth for almost 15 years. Some also believe that the two identical words may have led to the mistranslation of the title of Tolstoy’s famous novel “War and Peace,” which supposedly could just as well have been “War and the World.”
Collins Dictionary explains that it was also the term used to describe “a village commune of peasant farmers in pre-revolutionary Russia,” which is now obsolete.
A version of this article was previously published on December 4, 2015, and was updated on February 19, 2021, with more information.