Word: mellifluous

Pronunciation: mə-LI-floo-əs

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: sweet or musical; pleasant to hear

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Amy: (after Leonard leaves while Sheldon is talking) That was rude.

Sheldon: He does it all the time. He’s a cornucopia of social awkwardness.

Amy: Cornucopia. What a mellifluous word.

Sheldon: Let’s make that our word of the day.

Amy: Agreed. And we’ll use mellifluous tomorrow.

The Big Bang Theory (Season 4, Episode 5 – The Desperation Emanation)

Yes, it’s another example taken from The Big Bang Theory. I know I’ve used quite a few of these already, but what can I say? I love this show, and it does have some great vocabulary words scattered throughout the dialogue. In this example, Amy comments on an interesting word that Sheldon uses to define Leonard, a word they both agree is “musical” enough to their ears to warrant a place on their daily vocabulary list (as is the word they use to describe it).

A “mellifluous” sound is one that’s pleasing to hear, especially when referring to a voice or words. The term comes from the Latin adjective mellifluus, which combines two roots: the noun mel “honey” and the verb fluere “to flow”. It’s believed that the word in English arose in the late 15th century to describe what was sweet and smooth, that is, what seemed to “flow like honey”.

Like many other words used on The Big Bang Theory, I had never heard “mellifluous” until it was used by one of the show’s eccentric characters. Based on what little I know about it, I might use it to describe the sweet voice of a gentle character or the sound of affectionate words exchanged between lovers. According to other definitions, “mellifluous” can also be used to define a smooth style of writing, and might even be considered more applicable to writing while a synonym like “dulcet” (also meaning “sweet”) would be a better alternative for describing sound (I couldn’t find a reliable citation, though, so trust this information at your own risk). To be safe, “mellifluous” should probably be applied to something audible, but it’s really up to you to decide exactly what you want to describe as “sweet and smooth”. Use it however you see fit!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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