Like every language, English is filled with lots of words and phrases that are interesting, useful and inspiring. The language is constantly evolving, and new words are introduced into the English dictionary every year. But learners learn at different speeds and will pick up new vocabulary each week.
Here, both native and non-native English speakers let us know what their favourite English words and phrases are. We hope you find them useful and motivating…
Fathima Dada, Global Managing Director, English and Schools at Pearson English: “Allophilia should be our word and our work for 2017! ‘Positive attitude for a group that is not one’s own.’ Our world needs allophilia!”
This word is derived from the Greek meaning “liking or love of the other” and was first used by Harvard Professor Todd L Pittinsky in 2006 when he couldn’t find an antonym for “prejudice” in any dictionary.
Suzana Marinkovic: “There are a great number of English words and phrases that I enjoy listening to and pronouncing. I like to hear or say ‘absolutely fabulous’ because it sounds so perfect to me – the sound of the words is what attracts me most.”
This phrase emphasises something that is really, really good. You might also be familiar with the TV series and/or movie Absolutely Fabulous, starring Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley.
Everything happens for a reason
Dhelynn Rurac Delabahan: “‘Everything happens for a reason’ – because I believe that God will give me the best that I deserve.”
This is a common phrase – especially for people who are religious or spiritual. It is the belief that even if bad things happen to you, there’s a purpose or reason for it – as decided by God or fate.
Steffanie Zazulak, Senior Marketing Manager at Pearson English:
“Even as native English speakers, it’s almost impossible to know all the words in the English language. I learned about the word ‘polymath’ a few years ago, which is a noun that means “a person of great learning in several fields of study”. I’ve never been great at one thing but good at many things… so when I learned about the word, I instantly connected with it.”
This word describes a person of wide knowledge or learning.
To learn one must be humble
Alcides Ferreira: “‘To learn one must be humble’ – because when I teach, I’m humble enough to learn a lot with my students and vice versa.”
This quote comes from James Joyce, author of Ulysses. The full quote reads: “To learn one must be humble. But life is the great teacher.”
Cecilia Boyd: “Serendipity.”
Michael Davies: “‘Serendipity’ is a good word.”
Meaning “a fortunate happening or a pleasant surprise”, it was coined by Horace Walpole in 1754. In a letter to a friend Walpole explained an unexpected discovery he had made by reference to a Persian fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip.
Yasmin Alsaleh: “‘Glamorous’… I like to say it!”
This word can be used to describe something that is attractive in an exciting or special way.
Pick yourself up…
Blanca Torres: “‘Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.’ I like it because we all have faced adversity, but we should never, ever give up.”
This is from a popular song composed in 1936 by Jerome Kern, with lyrics by Dorothy Fields, written for the film Swing Time.
James Choles: “There are many words that are always pleasing to say, but my favourite English word is simply ‘yes’.”
The word “yes” is great – and there are lots of others ways to say it in English, such as “yeah”, “yep” and “aye”.
Evelyn Teacher: “It’s always a pleasure to pronounce the word ‘literature’. Immediately my mind is flooded with scenarios, characters and stories.”
In its broadest sense, this word describes any kind of written or printed matter. More restrictively, it is writing considered as an art form, or a piece of writing deemed to have artistic or intellectual value.
Shalini Srinivasan: “I like the word ‘jungle’ – I could be speaking English or Hindi!”
Many English words have origins on other languages. “Jungle” comes via Hindi from Sanskrit “jangala”, meaning “rough and/or arid terrain”.
Jamie Rumball: “I like the word ‘sesquipedalian’, which is something that is characterised by using unnecessarily long-winded words. I also enjoy the irony.
This word comes from the Latin “sesquipedalia verba”, which literally translates as “words of a foot and a half”!
Andrew Geekie: “‘Smash factor’: a golfing term meaning the amount of energy transferred from the club head to the golf ball. The more smash factor the better!”
Golfing champ Tiger Woods has a smash factor of about 1.48, while the average amateur player has a smash factor of 1.20.
Anandi Vara: “I like the word ‘asparagus’ – it’s fun to say!”
To eat asparagus in season in the UK, you’ll have to be quick – the season is very short, just a few weeks from the end of April to the summer solstice, 21 June.
Jon Watkins: “My favourite phrase is ‘good times’. I say it all the times when things are going well just to reaffirm that positive things are happening.”
This phrase can stand alone, to emphasise that everything is ok or going well.