The Happiest Words in the English Language

“I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine,” Emily Dickinson wrote.

As a writer, I am in love, captivated, and addicted to words. And with good reason. Words are powerful and sometimes even magical.

Cruel words can cause pain or anger, make us cry, and bring disharmony to the world. On the other hand, inspiring words can lift us up, bring joy, motivate us to do good, offer hope, heal, and excite us.

That brings me to the subject of this article: What are the happiest words in the English language?

I ran into an interesting article in The Atlantic, The 200 Happiest Words in Literature.

WriterAs a writer, I was fascinated by this subject. If you take a writing class, one of the first things you learn is that every story known to man can be reduced to a handful of plot lines.

Opinions vary on exactly which plot lines those are; however, researchers from the University of Vermont and the University of Adelaide collected computer-generated story arcs for nearly 2,000 works of fiction and classified each into six types of narratives based on what happens to the protagonist:

(1) Rags to Riches (rise), (2) Riches to Rags (fall), (3) Man in a Hole (fall then rise), (4) Icarus (rise then fall), (5) Cinderella (rise then fall then rise), and (6) Oedipus (fall then rise then fall)

The study focused on the emotional highs and lows of each story type. Then, the computer analyzed which emotional structure writers used most and which ones the readers liked best.

Using 10,000 of the most frequently used English words, researchers then asked people to rate the happiness quotient of the words they encountered. In the end, they had this massive list of words ranked by happiness. The results?

The happiest word: Laughter – followed by happiness, love, happy, laughed, laugh, laughing, excellent, laughs, and joy.

The least happy: Terrorist – followed by suicide, rape, terrorism, murder, death, cancer, killed, kill, and die.

In the middle of the pack you’ll find dull words like particularly, list, brown, expectations, equation, index, and explain.

That gives you a glimpse, but if you’re curious what made the top 100, I’m including a more detailed list below.

Sad EmoticonSo we can end on a high note, we’ll start with the 100 words that were at the bottom of the heap as least happy. These words are truly awful:

Terrorist, suicide, rape, terrorism, murder, death, cancer, killed, kill, died, torture, raped, deaths, arrested, killing, die, terror, jail, kills, war, murdered, killings, fatal, tortured, abused, sickness, failed, cry, cruel, violence, sadness, diseases, abuse, wars, evil, earthquake, depressing, poison, fail, disaster, bomb, tumors, poverty, headache, depression, criminal, punishment, killers, illness, disease, dead, slavery, sick, (curse word), rejection, injury, destroyed, crying, violent, tragedy, slaves, slave, prison, hates, failure, fails, bankruptcy, virus, suffer, robbery, rejected, racist, dies, worst, pain, funeral, dying, heartbreak, unhappy, unemployment, sorrow, painful, hurts, hated, crimes, corruption, pollution, homeless, drowned, agony, tsunami, robbed, hurt, divorced, depressed, loser, crime, cried, suffering, injured.

That was dismal and depressing, so let’s move on to the happy words.

Before we begin, however, I’d like to note that some of the words wouldn’t make my list. For example, materialistic words like rich, diamonds, profit, millionaire, promotion, earnings, and profits. Really, people?

In my opinion, other words have more merit. Happy words like laughter, joy, peaceful, sunlight, weekend, honesty, hugs, exciting, optimistic, song, goodness, humor, smiles, kisses, celebrate, moonlight, fun, and friendship. I was also happy to see a few spiritual words like praise, faithful, honor, blessings, heavens, angels, and glory make the list.

I also agreed with the participants that chocolate is one of the happiest words. And you’ll notice grandmother and grandma made the top 200. Love that!

Happy EmoticonSo here’s the complete list, beginning with the happiest. I am giving you twice as many happy words to make up for all the brutal words listed above – 200 in all. See what you think:

Laughter, happiness, love, happy, laughed, laugh, laughing, excellent, laughs, joy, successful, win, rainbow, smile, won, pleasure, smiled, rainbows, winning, celebration, enjoyed, healthy, music, celebrating, congratulations, weekend, celebrate, comedy, jokes, rich, victory, Christmas, free, friendship, fun, holidays, loved, loves, loving, beach, hahaha, kissing, sunshine, delicious, friends, funny, outstanding, paradise, sweetest, vacation, butterflies, freedom, flower, great, sunlight, sweetheart, sweetness, award, chocolate, hahahaha, heaven, peace, splendid, success, enjoying, kissed, attraction, celebrated, hero, hugs, positive, sun, birthday, blessed, fantastic, winner, delight, beauty, butterfly, entertainment, funniest, honesty, sky, smiles, succeed, wonderful, glorious, kisses, promotion, family, gift, humor, romantic, cupcakes, festival, hahahahaha, honor, relax, weekends, angel, b-day, bonus, brilliant, diamonds, holiday, lucky, mother, super, amazing, angels, enjoy, friend, friendly, mother’s, profit, finest, bday, champion, grandmother, haha, kiss, kitten, miracle, mom, sweet, blessings, bright, cutest, entertaining, excited, excitement, joke, millionaire, prize, succeeded, successfully, winners, shines, awesome, genius, achievement, cake, cheers, exciting, goodness, hug, income, party, puppy, smiling, song, succeeding, tasty, victories, achieved, billion, cakes, easier, flowers, gifts, gold, merry, families, handsome, lovers, affection, candy, cute, diamond, earnings, interesting, peacefully, praise, relaxing, roses, Saturdays, faithful, heavens, cherish, comfort, congrats, cupcake, earn, extraordinary, glory, hilarious, moonlight, optimistic, peaceful, romance, feast, attractive, glad, grandma, internet, pleasant, profits, smart.

Ah, that was much better than all those totally heartless words, right?

So, now you know what other people thought. What’s your favorite happy words? Please share in the comments below!

Images courtesy of punsayaporn and emoticons by farconville at


Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

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3 Responses

  1. Pearl says:

    Wow, I think that list covered most of my happy words. I do get a smile from made up words like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, and scrumpdillyicious. 🙂

  2. Cat Michaels says:

    Julie, didn’t realize word’s true impact until I finished that list of unhappy words. How depressing! I would add to that list “national political convention”s (well, that is three words). I need to check the happy list, but I’d add ‘nap,’ and ‘bubbles’ -:D.

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