Welcome to Withenay’s Wednesday Word: a wandering, wondering dip into the dictionary. The topics are always varied and rarely predictable!
flowing with honey or sweetness; (of sound) sweetly smooth
prob from OE melu meal, influenced by mearu soft, tender
Occasionally I am surprised by a word. I think mellifluous is a wonderful word, that rolls around on your tongue before pouring out of your mouth. Admittedly, it can sound like you’re struggling after a couple of pints too many, as the syllables run into one another, but it has an onomatapaeic feel to it.
I’d always interpreted the word simply as a definition of sound – indeed, more specific than that: a definition of singing. I hear it as a beautiful tune, probably sung by a female, with running notes and wonderful tones. It would be gentle, no harshness or discordancy. If I was describing a musical instrument’s output as mellifluous I would assume it was taking on the same singing tone.
So I was surprised (and delighted) to discover that the musical interpretation is the second option per the dictionary (that means it is second in the compiler’s list; the first definition is the most common, or original). The first definition is flowing with honey or sweetness and I can see how the two definitions would combine and overlap. Now I imagine a girl singing with honeyed tones.
Honey is a family favourite, and my vocabulary is now extending to encompass a multitude of bee-centred adjectives.
The melliferous bee buzzed around the hive, busy in the act of mellification. The keeper gasped at the mellifluence of honey as he harvested his crop, knowing there would be enough for the melliverous couple to purchase a mellite necklace.
Ok, so not the most interesting story ever written! In finishing, I note that the next word is mellow, which probably comes from the same Old English roots (and has nothing to do with the preceding word – mellay!)