• dulcet •
dêl-sit • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Pleasingly sweet to the ear, soothingly musical, most closely associated with sounds, such as those of the dulcimer, a word based on the same root.
Notes: The adverb is dulcetly, and it is a mystery why the obvious noun, dulcetness, is usually omitted from dictionaries. An older, more attractive variant is mentioned in the Oxford English Dictionary, dulceness. Of course, it hasn't been used much since the 17th century, when it meant simply "sweetness".
In Play: Today's is certainly one of the most beautiful words in English, deserving the frequency of its use in Romantic poetry, "The dulcet melody of a displaced nightingale wafted through the glass of Chablis she held and the colors of the garden surrounding her, dissolving it all into a soft, aqueous moment she would never forget." The challenge is to guide this word away from sounds effectively, "She soon felt herself slip into the dulcet depths of her childhood."
Word History: Today's word came from an Old French diminutive of doux, doucet "sweet". The [l] was probably returned by scholastics under the influence of the Latin original, dulcis "sweet", the origin of Old French doucet. The same change of L to U occurs in English, too. Throughout the northeastern US, Ireland, and elsewhere, this change has occurred before a consonant and at the end of words: milk is pronounced [miuk] and hill, [hiu]. The same shift occurs in Brazilian Portuguese, Polish, and Serbian. The same original PIE root emerged in Greek as glukos "sweet", from which we borrowed glucose, the sweet fluid in many plants and principal energy source in blood. The Latin dulcis certainly went on to become Italian dolce, as in la dolce vita "the sweet (good) life".
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