by Roma Gujarathi
Some words have an allure of their own. Sometimes it’s the way a word sounds, like mellifluous; the letters flow so smoothly together. Other words, like hiraeth, are surrounded by a sense of mystery. Yet still, there are words like sonder that make you pause in wonder. Each of these words is beautiful.
Mellifluous /məˈliflo͞oəs/: pleasingly smooth to hear. Saying this word aloud brings out its meaning. The sounds blend to create music, of sorts. It reminds you of the solace in taking a walk through the woods, hearing the birds chirping above. It reminds you of driving through a storm, as the raindrops plop onto your windshield. It reminds you of dancing on a stage, matching your body’s movement to the echoing beat around you. Mellifluous describes the rhythm of life itself.
Hiraeth /hiraɪ̯θ/: a Welsh word with no direct English translation. Loosely put, it refers to an intense sense of nostalgia for a place in your past. This place is lost, for you can never return again. Hiraeth is the frustration of returning to an incomplete sentence you had written the night before, and trying to remember your exact thoughts from then. It is the emotion of visiting your old high school and seeing new murals and unfamiliar faces; the place remains yours no more. Even yet, hiraeth is your longing self, broken but healing still, from the loss of a loved one. Hiraeth is the recognition of constant change.
Sonder /ˈsɑndər/: the realization that all the people you pass are leading intricate lives of their own. The man who poured your coffee this morning is thinking about what to buy his daughter for her thirteenth birthday. The woman who stopped her car to let you cross the road is interviewing for a senior role in her company tomorrow. The baby who gurgled and waved to you in the park is just now recognizing that her hands are connected to her own body. Sonder is a simple reminder to share in both the sorrows and joys of the people around us.
Time and time again, you hear the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.” But some words bring countless images to mind. They transport you to a world that stretches your consciousness of memories and expands the realms of your imagination. After a pause, you realize that sometimes a word is worth a thousand pictures, too.