My wordy Valentine

I might be making a huge assumption here, but as writers we must all be fond of words, especially their ability to evoke a certain feeling or express an idea that’s formed in our heads.

Where would we be without words?

I’m a week late for Valentine’s Day, but this post is my public declaration of love for words. And I have one particular favorite word: serendipity.

Serendipity refers to the accidental discovery of something good. I love it for its meaning and its sound. It also reminds me of the first time I heard it applied to life.

When I was 14, I started my first day of high school eager for more challenging and interesting classes. I walked into my biology class full of a love of science and a desire to one day be a doctor. Written across the white board in massive letters was the word SERENDIPITY. Our teacher started the year by explaining that most of our scientific knowledge was based on serendipity. She illustrated the point by telling us the story of Fleming’s discovery of penicillin.

I also love the story of how the word was coined. There is an old Persian fairy tale called The Three Princes of Serendip – ‘Serendip’ being an old word for Sri Lanka, meaning “Dwelling-Place-of-Lions Island”.  Horace Walpole called it “a silly fairy tale…as their highnesses traveled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.” This story led him to coin the word serendipity in a letter in 1754.

See? Great stories are made of great words, but great words also are made of great stories.

What’s your favorite word? Do you like it because it evokes a memory, a feeling? Is it the sound you like? Is it the etymology? The meaning?


  1. Serendipity is a good word–and one I don’t see very often!
    My favorite word is “grace” because of all that it implies–not only in terms of our own behavior, which I hope is gracious and exhibits grace under pressure, but because of the religious and life meanings–the idea of something SERENDIPITOUS happening to us that maybe we don’t deserve. One of my favorite song lines is by Slaid Cleaves: “I’ve been chasing grace, but grace ain’t so easily found.”

    1. That’s definitely a beautiful word, for all the reasons you mention. If I ever have a daughter, Grace is in my top two names (but giving someone a name like that will probably guarantee she’s frantic and klutzy).

    1. I know what you mean, Terry. My dad and grandma both do that. Actually, I think my grandma makes them up and Dad grew up hearing them from her and they stuck in his vocab. It always makes me smile when they say them because they’re the only ones I know who use those words.

    1. Folly is a really pretty word, Mallory. And I love how historical novels set in England often have a folly built on an aristocratic estate because someone with more money than sense had a dream of building something special. That always reminds me of another of my favorite words: whimsy. Which in turn reminds me of one of my favorite characters: Lord Peter Wimsey.

  2. I, too, am smitten with the word whimsy, probably because of the lightness and ease that it calls to mind. But I have another favorite. In my early teens (having just found myself to be a blue jeaned, back to nature girl) I encountered my first bar of castile soap, and brought it home. Before I tore off the wrapper, I read it again out loud, I’ve no idea why. When I said the word ‘castile’ out loud, it immediately became my favorite word. I guess it’s like certain pieces of classical music that just make me cry and cry — there’s no explanation — the sound itself simply moves me.

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