a list of cool words

If you didn't notice already, I love making lists. My Evernote is overflowing with all sorts of lists, from best movies and places to go in Europe to memorable quotes and unique name ideas for my future kids (yeah I'm that person). A particular list that I've been working on for years is a list of cool words. I like to collect interesting words that I stumble upon, whether it be from a line in a film or on a poster on the streets. I write down any words that are rare, sound pleasant, or have a fascinating meaning. A lot of them are from other languages as well!

This list will always be a work in progress... but for now, here are some of my favorite words:

01 — acacia (uh-kay-sha)
Acacia wood was used to make the tabernacle in the Old Testament because of its endurance, so I like to associate the word with strength. Isn't it such a pretty word?! I think acacia leaves are really pretty, too. I used this word as the name for the first small group that I led through my campus ministry, and I also have a tattoo of the leaf behind my left ear.

02 — apricity (uh-pris-ih-tee)
The warmth of the sun in the wintertime. Think: rays of golden light that highlight the shimmering snow on your front lawn. *happy sigh* Sadly, it's an obsolete word and can't be found in most dictionaries.

03 — ethereal (uh-thee-ree-uhl)
Extremely delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world. Even the word sounds delicate, ya know what I mean? Images that come to mind: feathers, clouds, stars, heaven.

04 — excelsior (ik-sehl-see-yur)
Latin for ever upwards or still higher. In one of my all-time favorite movies, Silver Linings Playbook, the main character battles bipolar disorder. Throughout his emotional and mental struggles, he holds onto the silver linings of life and trusts that good things are always coming as he firmly holds onto his personal mantra: excelsior. This is the name of the current small group I lead at my church, and as pictured above, I have a tattoo of the word in my handwriting on my wrist.

05 — fjaka (fya-kah)
A word originating from Dalmatia, Croatia that means "the art of doing nothing." Contrary to its definition, it's a complex concept that Dalmatians believe is truly a gift from God. It's the act of doing absolutely nothing and delighting in that feeling, but it can be experienced in different ways depending on the person. It's a moment that feels lightweight; a moment where you feel like you're somewhere, but also nowhere. Read this if you want to better understand it. I don't know about you guys, but I. Love. Doing. Nothing.

06 — halcyon (hal-see-yawn)
A period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful. When I see or hear this word, I think of my time in Tokyo because 1) it was an extended period of time in my life that I feel nostalgic about often, and 2) I made a video about the word while I was there!

07 — hygge (hyoo-guh)
To put it simply, this word means cozy feels in Danish. It's the mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality. Picture a fireplace and roasting marshmallows with fuzzy socks on your feet, while it's snowing softly outside.

08 — ikigai 生きがい (ee-kee-gah-ee)
A reason for being that is in everyone; discovering it after a deep search brings satisfaction and meaning to life. Researchers say that there might be a connection between the existence of this word—this concept in the Japanese language—and the fact that certain groups in Japan have the longest life expectancy in the world. Here's a visualization of the word.

09 — Immanuel עִמָּנוּאֵל (ee-mah-new-ehl)
Hebrew for "God with us." The word first appeared in the Book of Isaiah in a prophecy about the birth of Jesus Christ, and it symbolizes His comforting promise to be ever-present in our lives. It reminds me of the song God With Us by Bryan & Katie Torwalt that has a really touching backstory and makes me tear up every time I hear the bridge:
Where there was death, You brought life, Lord
Where there was fear, You brought courage
When I was afraid, You were with me
And You lifted me up, and You lifted me up
"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” — Matthew 28:20

10 — komorebi 木漏れ日 (koh-moh-reh-bee)
In Japanese, this refers to sunlight that filters through the trees. So pretty!

11 — meraki μεράκι (may-rah-kee)
A Greek word that is used to describe doing something with creativity, love, or soul. In another sense, it's when you really put "something of yourself" into what you are doing. I think of passion and flow when I try to understand this word, and I realize that it's something that I want to be able to describe all of my actions with.

12 — nefelibata (neh-feh-leh-bah-tah)
In Portuguese, it literally means "cloud walker", but figuratively means one who lives in the clouds of his or her own imagination. It could also refer to one who is unconventional or unorthodox.

13 — petrichor (peh-try-kohr)
Did you know that the smell of rain has a name? Yep, petrichor is the pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather. It's the earthy fragrance we experience when rain hits dry ground. It's like the smell of a warm summer night.

14 — samar سَمَر (sah-mahr)
Arabic for "conversations with loved ones at night."

15 — shiloh שִׁילֹה (shy-low)
Shiloh is a Hebrew word that means peace. Shiloh is a Messianic title that literally translates to “He whose it is” and is mentioned in God’s promise to the tribe of Judah, which Jacob speaks of in Genesis 49:10. Shiloh is also a city that is often referred to as a place of rest/peace because after Israel entered the Promised Land, the Tabernacle finally “rested from its wanderings” in Shiloh, a city north of Bethel (Joshua 18:1, Judges 21:19). Finally, Shiloh is used as a parable in Jeremiah 7:12 when God rebukes the stubborn leaders of Judah who had a false sense of security because they had the Temple of God in Jerusalem. Altogether—shiloh is a promise, a person, a place, and a parable.

16 — Soli Deo gloria (soh-lee deh-oh gloh-ree-ah)
Not a word, but a beautiful term that means "glory to God alone" in Latin. I decided that this would be, of some sort, my personal mantra of the year. Deemed as one of the five solae of the Protestant Reformation that summarized the fundamental beliefs of the Reformers, it was used by artists like Bach and Handel to dedicate their work to praising God. The other solae include:

Sola scriptura: by Scripture alone
Sola fide: by faith alone
Sola gratia: by grace alone
Solo Christo: through Christ alone
Bonus word (but not really): my name! This might also be why I got so interested in unique words in the first place. My name is actually a stylized romanization of my Korean name 채린, which is pronounced as cheh-leen. Growing up, people would always butcher the pronunciation. I would correct them throughout elementary school, but once I hit junior high school I became extremely tired of it. I also noticed that most people tended to say shur-een (they read the "ch" as "sh") when they first met me. So I let it be, stopped correcting others, and pretty much took on a new name (and a new identity at that rate, but that's besides the point).

Two years ago, I worked at a refugee resettlement center in Philly, and many of the clients whom I taught English to were from the Middle East. One day, one of them approached me and asked if my name is Farsi. I was confused and told him that it's not, but he insisted that it had to be Farsi and wrote it in Arabic on the whiteboard:


It turned out that the word he scribbled is pronounced in the exact same way as my name and means sweet in Farsi!

My Korean name is derived from the Chinese characters 彩 and 璘, which translate to bright jade. So, I am... a sweet, bright jade. 😌
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