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What Is Euphony?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 23, 2024
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Euphony is a term used to refer to a word or phrase that is pleasing in sound, specifically one that includes consonants and vowels that work well together. This typically relies on vowel sounds, or soft consonants, as well as words that are relaxing or melodic in nature. While a single word can be euphonic on its own, this more often refers to a line or passage from a work of poetry or prose that creates an overall sense of pleasantness. In contrast to euphony is cacophony, which refers to a series of sounds that are unpleasant or jarring within a word or phrase.

The purpose of euphony in a written work is to create a section that is pleasing to the ear, especially for works that are going to be read aloud. Speeches and poetry, which are often spoken to crowds or meant for reading out loud, often benefit from euphony within them. Visually, however, this device can still be effective, since many people hear words in their minds as they read them, replicating the effect of these words being spoken. Although the focus of euphony is typically upon the sounds made within words, even the meaning of those words is important, and so the entire passage helps create a sense of ease.

Different words and sounds can create euphony, though vowels are commonly viewed as more soothing than consonants. Softer consonants, like "w" and "s" can be relaxing and pleasant to the ear, while sounds like "k" and "t" are usually thought of as harder and less pleasing. A phrase that creates a sense of euphony would be something like, "The susurrus of song birds serenaded them beneath the moonlight in the mossy garden." In this example, there are many vowel sounds and soft consonants like "s" and "th" that work with the meaning of the words to evoke a soothing feeling.

Cacophony is the opposite of euphony and is the creation of sounds within words or phrases that are unpleasant and harsh. When this happens accidentally, it is typically considered to be a mistake or sign of poor writing, as the result is a sense of unease or disquiet in the mind of a listener. In works of poetry and prose, however, cacophony can be used on purpose, as a way to set a section apart from the rest and make it stand out, especially if it is meant to convey unpleasant ideas. An example of this might be a phrase like, "Tall and strong, the towering mountains stood in the distance, beyond the cracked and sunburned dessert."

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Discussion Comments
By serenesurface — On Aug 26, 2012

@MikeMason-- I love some French words, they really do sound very pleasant to the ear. For example, I loved the name of that movie "Ratatoille." It's so harmonious and sweet.

There are also some words in English that I think are euphonious. Like "moonlight," "epiphany," "serenity" and "symphony." I love how these words sound and when several words like these are used in a phrase, it turns the whole thing into an euphony.

By stoneMason — On Aug 25, 2012

@burcinc-- That's actually true about French, I know because I've been studying French for many years.

French requires that phrases have a harmonious sound and that words combine well together. For example, there are rules about balancing vowels and consonants in a phrase.

Vowels are heavily used in French but within a phrase, a word cannot begin with a vowel if the word before ends with a vowel. So a vowel will be dropped or a consonant will be placed in between.

If I'm not wrong, a similar rule exists in Arabic. So this completely explains why you find French and Arabic euphonious.

By burcinc — On Aug 25, 2012

I think English for the most part is not a very euphonious language. Except for literary works and poetry, I feel like most sentences we form have a harsh sound to them. Like the article the example gave for cacophony sounds like every sentence I form when I'm speaking.

There are some languages which seem to be exactly the opposite. Like when I hear someone speaking French or Arabic, it almost feels like they're singing. Even though I don't speak either language, I can tell that the phrases are euphonious. It's pleasurable to listen to, it doesn't tire me out at all. I can't say the same about English even though it's my mother language.

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