Favourite Words

The Top 10s for Various Favourite-Word Categories

If you ask someone their favourite word, you might get an answer like "serendipity," "peace," or "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." The first answer would be a favourite for its beautiful sound and meaning, the second for its power and meaning, and the third for its novelty and complexity.

Table of Contents

  • Favourite-Word Lists by Category
  • (1) Most Beautiful Words
  • (2) Most Powerful Words
  • (3) Philosophical or Spiritual Words
  • (4) Linguistically Interesting Words
  • (5) Words in Popular Culture
  • (6) Words in Literature or Poetry
  • (7) Words in Science and Technology
  • (8) Words with Cultural or National Significance
  • (9) Most Commonly Used Words
  • (10) Words with Personal Significance
  • Test Time!
  • Learn with Hangman!
Scouring the internet for "top 10 favourite words" lists, I found dozens of lists, but generally they feature words from just one of the categories, most commonly the "beautiful sound and meaning" (or aesthetically pleasing) category. It was clear that there wasn't a definitive top 10 favourite words. So, I decided to write this "top tens" list linked to a voting system that could get us closer to that definitive "top 10" list. Let's call it the Wordsmith's Premier League (WPL).
favourite word lists

Favourite-Word Lists by Category

Here are ten categories under which a word could be considered a favourite. These categories are ordered from the most common favourite-word context to the least common context.

(1) Most Beautiful Words

These are words loved for aesthetic appeal (a mix of how they sound and their meaning). They are currently listed in alphabetical order so any voting is not influenced.
1auroraAn aurora is a natural light display in the Earth's sky caused by the collision of solar wind and magnetospheric charged particles with the high altitude atmosphere.
2ephemeralEphemeral means lasting for a very short time. It is similar to fleeting or transient.
3epiphanyAn epiphany is a moment of sudden and great revelation or realization.
4etherealEthereal means delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world. It is similar to heavenly or celestial
5idyllicIdyllic is the adjective of idyll. It means extremely happy, peaceful, or picturesque.
6iridescentIridescent means displaying luminous colours that seem to change when seen from different angles.
7luminescenceLuminescence is the emission of light by a substance not resulting from heat. It can occur through chemical reactions, electricity, or stress.
8luminousLuminous meanings emitting or reflecting light. It is similar to glowing or shining.
9serendipitySerendipity is the discovery of something good that was not sought but found nonetheless. It is like a pleasant surprise.
10solitudeSolitude is the state of being alone. Often it refers to a solitary environment where peace or introspection is discovered.

(2) Most Powerful Words

These are words that evoke strong emotions or have significant meanings. They are listed in alphabetical order. Vote for your favourite.
1compassionCompassion is the awareness of another's suffering and the desire to alleviate it.
2cuddleA cuddle is close and affectionate embrace to comfort or express affection.
3faithFaith is total trust or confidence in someone or something. In a religious context, it means a belief based on spiritual conviction rather than proof.
4freedomFreedom means not being imprisoned or enslaved. It is also the right to act and speak without restraint.
5harmonyHarmony is a state or system with balance, unity, and coherence among its discrete elements.
6homeHome is the place where someone lives permanently, especially as a family member. It conveys a a sense of personal sanctuary and belonging.
7hopeHope is an optimistic mindset. It is the expectation of a positive outcome.
8loveLove is an intense feeling of deep affection towards someone or something. It also refers to a great interest and pleasure in something.
9lullabyA lullaby is a soothing song sung to calm or send a child to sleep.
10peacePeace means freedom from disturbance or tranquillity. In a broader sense, it refers being free from war or violence.

(3) Philosophical or Spiritual Words

Loved for inspiring reflection and a quest for deeper understanding, these words capture profound concepts about the nature of existence and the human experience. They are listed in alphabetical order. Vote for your favourite.
1chakraIn Indian thought, chakras are the centres of spiritual power in the human body, usually considered to be seven in number.
2dharmaIn Indian religions, dharma is the eternal and inherent nature of reality (a cosmic law underlying right behaviour and social order).
3enlightenmentIn spiritual contexts, enlightenment refers to an awakening to a profound understanding of life and the universe.
4equanimityEquanimity is a mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.
5existentialismExistentialism is a philosophical approach that emphasizes individual existence, freedom, and choice.
6karmaIn Hinduism and Buddhism, karma is the concept that a person's actions in this and previous states of existence determine their fate in future existences.
7nirvanaIn Buddhism, nirvana is a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self.
8satoriIn Zen Buddhism, satori is a sudden moment of awakening or enlightenment where one experiences the true nature of existence.
9taoIn Chinese religions, tao is the essential, unifying principle of the universe. Encapsulating yin and yang, it represents the natural order of things, the flow of the cosmos, or the universal force that underlies everything.
10zenZen is a school of Mahayana Buddhism that emphasizes the value of meditation and intuition rather than ritual worship or study of scriptures.

(4) Linguistically Interesting Words

These are words that are loved for their length, novelty, or complexity. They are listed in alphabetical order. Vote for your favourite.
1abstemiousAbstemious means showing moderation or self-discipline, especially with food or alcohol. (It has all 5 vowels in order.)
Antidisestablishmentarianism refers to a 19th-century political position that opposed separating the Church of England from the state.
3facetiousFacetious means playfully, often inappropriately, funny. (It has all 5 vowels in order.)
4IoueaIouea is a genus of sea sponge. (It comprises only vowels. As a proper noun, it starts with a capital letter.)
5onomatopoeiaOnomatopoeia is a term to describe words that imitate or evoke the sound of what they represent (e.g., "buzz," "sizzle").
6logosglyphA logosglyph is a word that looks like what it means (e.g., "eyes" look like eyes, and "bed" looks like a bed).
7sprylySpryly means nimble, i.e., moving with speed and ease. (It comprises only consonants.)
8sylphySylphy means gracefully slender and fairy-like. (It comprises only consonants.)
9syzygySyzygy is an astronomical term for the alignment of three celestial bodies in a straight line, commonly used for the Earth, the Sun, and the Moon. (It comprises only consonants.)
10tmesisTmesis is the insertion of a word (usually an expletive) within another word (e.g., "abso-bl**dy-lutely,")

(5) Words in Popular Culture

These are words that have become famous or trendy due to their use in movies, TV shows, songs, or internet culture. They are listed in alphabetical order. Vote for your favourite.
1bazingaFirst used in the X files, "Bazinga!" is a catchphrase popularized by Sheldon Cooper in "The Big Bang Theory". It is an exclamation of success.
2cowabunga"Cowabunga!" was popularized by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It is an express of delight or satisfaction.
3d'ohD'oh is an exclamation popularized by Homer Simpson in "The Simpsons". It is used to acknowledge a stupid action, especially your own.
4facepalmWidely used on the internet, a facepalm (🤦) is a gesture indicating frustration or embarrassment.
5FOMOThe acronym FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) was popularized through social media and internet culture.
6JediThe Jedis are a central order in the "Star Wars" universe. They are associated with wisdom and special powers.
7muggleIn the "Harry Potter" universe, a muggle is a person who lacks magical ability.
8quidditchIn the "Harry Potter" universe, quidditch is a sport played in the "Harry Potter" series.
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is a meaningless word made popular by Disney's character "Mary Poppins," who suggests it describes something fantastic or extraordinary.
10zombieA zombie was originally a mythical undead being from Haitian folklore. It is now a staple in popular culture representing mindless "corpses."

(6) Words in Literature or Poetry

Words that are famous for their use by, or reference to, classic writers and poets. They are listed in alphabetical order. Vote for your favourite.
1DantesqueDantesque refers to hellish or infernal aspects. It comes from Dante Alighieri or his writings, especially the "Divine Comedy."
2DickensianDickensian refers to environments and situations depicted in the novels of Charles Dickens, especially those reflecting societal injustices.
3DraconianDraconian means excessively harsh and severe. It originates from the legal code of Draco in ancient Athens.
4HomericHomeric means epic in scale or character, like the works of Homer ("The Iliad" and "The Odyssey").
5KafkaesqueKafkaesque means marked by a senseless, disorienting complexity, akin to the works of Franz Kafka.
6LilliputianLilliputian means extremely small. It is from Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels."
7MachiavellianMachiavellian means cunning, scheming, and unscrupulous, especially in politics, akin to the tactics in Machiavelli's "The Prince."
8OrwellianOrwellian refers to the oppressive and totalitarian characteristics depicted in George Orwell's works, especially "1984."
9PuckishPuckish means mischievous. It derives from the character Puck in Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
10QuixoticQuixotic means idealistic and unrealistic, originating from Cervantes' "Don Quixote."

(7) Words in Science and Technology

These words are loved for their association with the frontiers of knowledge. They are listed in alphabetical order. Vote for your favourite.
1algorithmAn algorithm is a set of rules followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, particularly by a computer.
2entropyA key concept in thermodynamics, entropy is a measure of the disorder or randomness in a closed system.
3etherOften used in the context of the "ethernet" to describe a network technology, the ether is literally the upper regions of air beyond the clouds.
4hologramA hologram is a three-dimensional image formed by the interference of light beams from a laser or other coherent light source.
5nanobotA nanobot is a tiny robot designed at the nanoscale, often used in science-fiction and future-technology discussions.
6pixelA pixel is tiny area of illumination on a display screen. They are the building blocks of digital images.
7quantumThe term quantum refers to the minimum amount of any physical entity involved in an interaction.
8sapphireWhen describing screens and other electrical components, sapphire means highly durable.
9vortexA vortex is a swirling mass of fluid or air. The image of one is often used to symbolize dynamic activity or energy.
10zenithA zenith is a peak or the highest point. In technology, it implies the pinnacle of achievement or development.

(8) Words with Cultural or National Significance

These are words loved for their unique meanings in different nations or cultures. They are listed in alphabetical order. Vote for your favourite.
1gigilIn the Philippines (Tagalog language), gigil is the irresistible urge to squeeze someone because you love them or find them adorable.
2hiraethIn Welsh, hiraeth is a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, perhaps a home that never was.
3hyggeIn Danish, hygge is a feeling of contentment through enjoying the simple things in life.
4ikigaiIn Japanese, ikigai is the reason for being (the thing that gets you up in the morning).
5mamihlapinatapaiIn Tierra del Fuego, mamihlapinatapai is a look between two people, each wishing the other would initiate something they both desire.
6merakiIn Greek, meraki is doing something with soul, creativity, or love.
7malavogueIn Irish, malavogue means "to beat." It is typically used by parents in threats to their children.
8sobremesaIn Spanish, sobremesa is the time spent after lunch or dinner, talking to those people you dined with.
9tartleIn Scottish, a tartle is the hesitation while introducing someone because you've forgotten their name.
10ubuntuUbuntu is a term from Zulu and Xhosa (southern Africa). Often translated as "I am because we are," ubuntu means "humanity," emphasizing community, compassion, and the interconnectedness of all people.

(9) Most Commonly Used Words

These are the most frequently used words in English. I'm not expecting many of these to make the WPL. These words are listed from most common to least common. (You cannot vote for these words. Their order is not subjective.)
1the"The" is the definite article.
2beTo be is the most common verb in English.
3to"To" is a preposition or the sign of an infinitive verb.
4ofOf is a preposition.
5and"And" is a coordinating conjunction.
6a"A" (and "An") is the indefinite article.
7in"In" is a preposition commonly used with times and places.
8that"That" can be used as a conjunction, a demonstrative pronoun, a demonstrative determiner, a relative pronoun , and even an adverb.
  • "I think that that explains why that word that we've just mentioned is that common!"
(All five uses in order.)
9haveTo have is the second most common verb in English.
10I"I" is the most common personal pronoun in English.

(10) Words with Personal Significance

This list deserves a heading, but it cannot include any words because they are personalized to every individual.

Words That Overlap Categories

None of the words in these lists is repeated (i.e., no word appears in two lists). However, several words could have. For example:
  • Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious could have appeared in "Linguistically Interesting Words" for its complexity as well as "Words in Popular Culture."
  • Sylphy could have appeared in "Most Beautiful Words" for its sound and meaning as well as "Linguistically Interesting Words."
  • Cuddle could have appeared in "Most Beautiful Words" for its sound and meaning as well as "Most Powerful Words."
So, when thinking about your overall favourite word, bear in mind that it could have merits from more than one of the 10 categories listed.

Popularity of Words

The popularity of a word is an interesting aspect when considering a favourite word. A word must be popular enough to be known, yet not so popular as to be boring. You don't want your favourite word to be the same as everyone else's, do you? Where's the fun in that?

There are some brilliant words that have not made these lists, simply because they are still relatively unknown. I think the following four words are worthy of special mention:
1mellifluousMellifluous combines mel ("honey") and fluere ("to flow"). It describes sweet, smoothly flowing music or sound (e.g., the mellifluous waltz "The Blue Danube")
2incandescentLiterally, incandescent means emitting light as a result of being heated. Figuratively, it describes someone displaying intense emotion or brilliance (e.g., incandescent with rage).
3sonorousSonorous refers to a sound that is deep and resonant. It often describes a voice that is full, powerful, and pleasant (e.g., perfectly complemented his sonorous voice).
4kerfuffleKerfuffle is a fun word that means minor commotion, argument, or fuss.
If your favourite word is not on this page and you think it should be, please let me know. I am compiling a list of reserves too. If it's a great word, it could move straight into the list above.

Learn with Hangman!

Hangman is a classic word game. In this version, the hidden word is an irregular verb from this list. (Choose your first letter to start.)
  • Guess the hidden word by choosing one letter at a time.
  • If you guess a letter in the hidden adjective, then all is good.
  • If you guess a letter that is not in the hidden adjective, then the hangman starts to build the gallows.
  • If the gallows are completed, you lose.
  • Good luck!
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Create Your Own Version of This Game

Here is the word library for this game:

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This page was written by Craig Shrives.