Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. -Proverbs 18:21
By fruitful speech a man is filled with good things -Proverbs 12:14a
I am a logophile, a person who loves words. Words are so powerful and beautiful, as is the construction of them to make a language, and the unique words of different languages. In Japanese, there is a word for “light leaking between trees” made up of three characters that literally mean this. It’s called “komorebi.” There is a Swedish word, “mangata”, which literally means “moon-road.” It is the light of the moon reflected on water that creates the appearance of a road we could walk across on the way to the sky and the moon itself. In Turkish, “yakamoz” is used for light on water, which is one of my most favorite plays of light, something artists have spent centuries trying to capture in paint and drawing.
“Hygge” is a Danish word gaining popularity which refers to a feeling of coziness and comfort, contentment. To me, it is the moment when a contented sigh escapes me when I am sitting in front of a fire or room filled with candles, on a comfortable couch or in bed with a soft blanket and propped up with pillows, a good book in my hand and a hot cup of tea beside me on the table, especially on cold nights or rainy days. There are books we can buy about hygge to teach us how to create spaces like this, filled with candlelight or firelight, soft blankets and pillows and comfortable seating, with favorite objects nearby. A Rhodes scholarship applicant from Florida once learned a new Spanish word from a Columbian woman and quoted the word in his application: “espantaflohos”—literally, “it scares lazy people.” It means the drizzly weather that causes most people to stay indoors. Walking through the woods alone (and feeling, as I often do a connection to the trees and birds and nature around you—for me, because of the God who created us all) is “Waldeinsamkeit” in German. “Coddiwomple” is an old English slang word that means “to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination.”
In Spanish, there is a word “querencia” which comes from “querer”, a verb which means "to want" or "to desire." Querencia is a place where one feels safe, and where inner strength is drawn from. This is a unique word that describes something that only God gives. As a believer and follower of Jesus, I feel querencia when I’m deep in His Word and the Holy Spirit speaks a comforting truth to me, when He shows me a place where I had lived in fear and doubt and insecurity and refutes it with a truth or a promise and it speaks directly to me, as if God Himself were whispering at my ear, reminding me “...you are a holy people belonging to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be His own possession out of all the people on the earth. The Lord had His heart set on you and chose you...because the Lord loved you...He redeemed you from the place of slavery…” (Deut. 7:6-8)
The God who could make absolutely anything He wanted or desired, who created stars and sunsets and vast oceans wanted to make me, chose me to follow Him, because HE desires ME; He loves me. And He uses creative, beautiful words to tell me, over and over, especially in His Word, but even through the beauty of others words and concepts in other languages as well.
The ancient Greeks have eight different words for the types of “love.” Mania is what the Greeks call obsessive love: stalking, codependency, jealousy, controlling and abusive behaviors are attributed to this, though some would say this is not love at all (and biblically, I would agree, this is not God’s definition or standard of it, and should not be tolerated). Philatia is self-love, self-care, not like pride, but caring about oneself enough to take care of oneself, to make healthy choices and know when to rest. Eros is romantic, passionate love, like that which should be between a husband and wife. Ludus is playful love, joking and laughing together or kindly teasing, like young lovers. Storge is a fondness or affection, usually felt between good friends or close family, or the allegiance a person feels to their country or fellow teammates/fans. Pragma is enduring love, committed love that has suffered time’s trials and chooses to remain, often even when, for a time, fond feelings disappear and loving is a hard choice to make. Phileo is a strong friendship, a deep bond between best friends, like David and Jonathan had, culture now sometimes calls it “ride or die.” Although being willing to die for someone is another kind of love, the greatest and deepest, agape. This is the kind used in 1 Cor. 13, the love chapter. It is also, interestingly, used in a passage between Peter and Jesus. The subtlety can be missed if we don’t pay attention to which words are used here. Jesus uses “agape” for love, while Peter, not wanting to lie, and feeling guilty for denying even knowing Jesus three times when He was on trial, Peter only uses “phileo”, a lesser love.
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these [fish]?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. -John 21:15-17
In the third instance, Jesus uses phileo, and Peter is able to reply yes, phileo. Yes, Peter loves the Lord more than the old life of fishing that Jesus called Him from. But he’s not ready to die for Jesus. Not yet. He will though, and Jesus predicts it in the next verse, the type of Peter’s death. Knowing the words used here opens up a new level of meaning, about Peter’s hurt and shame, for denying Jesus three times, and being asked if he would die for Jesus. But Jesus is compassionate; He knows our limitations. He meets us where we are. So the last time He asks, Jesus asks phileo. Because Jesus knows that for now, that is enough. Jesus knows where I am limited now, and He meets me there, and He changes me and prepares me, a little at a time, to make me ready for what He has for my future, just as He did for Peter. He does this by teaching me His Word, and how to obey them, using the Bible and the Holy Spirit, and helping me to pray for obedience and surrender. Jesus makes me new, a little more like Him, every time I obey and surrender to Him and His plan. And He uses words to do it, and to show off His brilliant majesty and beauty.
I am thankful for beautiful words that show off God’s glory and creativity. I’m thankful for silly words that show His humor, for kind words that show His compassions, for convicting words that compel me to be better, for unique words in other languages that give a fuller, richer picture and depth to God’s brilliance (and yes, here I mean beauty and glory and intelligence, because that word can be synonymous all three). I am thankful for words that show the depths of God’s love for me, even me, and how He woos with the complexities and intricacies and poetry of words. Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society says “Language was invented for one reason, boys - to woo women - and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do.” The God of the universe is never lazy or haphazard; He crafted complex languages to woo us, to teach and remind us of His love for us, to explore His beauty and majesty and creativity, and to help us obey Him and fulfill the purpose for which each of us were created. Words are one more amazing way God shows off who He is and how He loves us.
For more verses about this, read: Matt. 12:37, Prov. 10:19-20, 15:4, Ecc. 10:12, 1 Thess. 2:13, Rom. 10:17, Heb. 4:12, 1 Pet. 1:25, Ps. 119:89, Heb. 6:5.
More Fun Words
I asked some friends for a list of their favorite or fun words, and here is what they came up with:
Feel free to add any of your favorites (but please don't be crude or vulgar or crass) in the comments below.
© 2021 Amanda Lorenzo
Naude Lorenzo on March 11, 2021:
a very instructive interesting article, it is always awesome to read an article from Amanda, God bless you and use you for His honor and glory.
Ann Carr from SW England on March 10, 2021:
Words are indeed wonderful and powerful. English is so rich but its depth is seldom delved into. I have a crusade to get people using some of the old words and you have some great ones here.