mê-li-flu-wês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Of speech: pleasant-sounding, beautiful, highly articulate, poetic. 2. Sweet as honey or sweetened with honey.
Notes: This word amply demonstrates how we often confuse the senses. As the Word History shows, it originally referred to honey flowing over the tongue, but this word now refers more often to the sweetness of speech than to that of taste, in other words, speech as beautiful as honey is sweet. Its synonymous cousin, mellifluent, has an equally beautiful noun, mellifluence.
In Play: Today's Good Word is itself one of the most mellifluous words in English; it is almost onomatopoetic. The image of today's word is a smooth flow of speech approaching poetry if not reaching it: "The poet inundated his audience in mellifluous waves of words." This term describes the ultimate goal of the translator: "The interpreter translated each sentence into mellifluous, idiomatic English that flowed drippingly from her tongue."
Word History: This word is the English makeover of Latin mellifluus "dripping with honey", based on mel "honey" + fluere "to flow". Latin mel and Greek meli "honey" come from the same root as French and Spanish miel "honey" and English mead "fermented honey". Flu- is a cognate of English flow and flu. The name of the disease, flu, is a clipping of Italian influenza "influence", from the days when diseases were believed to be the evil influence of celestial bodies. (Thank you Katy Brezger for this mellifluous contribution from the Alpha Agora.)
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