8 of our favourite words from Roots of Happiness by Susie Dent

Word expert Susie Dent has searched far and wide to uncover 100 happy and uplifting words for her new book Roots of Happiness. Here are eight of our favourite words from this collection.

Susie Dent


If you've ever spotted a small hole in a hedge or at the bottom of a fence, you may not know that you are looking at a 'smeuse', an opening that allows the passage of animals such as rabbits and hares. The word is a blend of the words 'meuse', meaning a hiding place, and 'smoot', meaning a small hole or opening. If you crouch down to peer through a smeuse, you never know what you might see!

Quiddle [quid-ell]

To quiddle is to make yourself busy with little things as a way of avoiding the important ones. There are many words in the dictionary and thesaurus that express the same idea of pottering about or wasting time. Some from the past include 'picking a salad', 'spuddling', 'dawdling', 'slummocking' and 'moodling'.

Illustration: Harriet Hobday for Roots of Happiness (2023)


Kittens take their name from an old French word chaton, meaning 'little cat'. We have been using the word 'kitten' for baby cats for over 600 years.

Clinkabell [clink-a-bell]

Along with 'cocklebell' and 'conkerbell', 'clinkabell' is an old word for an icicle.

Illustration: Harriet Hobday for Roots of Happiness (2023)

Snottinger [snot-in-jer]

Victorian slang for a handkerchief.


What words do your loved ones use when they talk to you? 'Poppet' perhaps? Or 'sweetheart'? They might also use 'darling', which has been a term of affection for over a thousand years. 'Darling' literally means 'little dear', and is one of many words used for someone we love. Some, from the past, will sound very strange to us now: 'bagpudding', for example, or 'cabbage', 'flittermouse' (an old term for a bat) and 'ding-ding'!

Illustration: Harriet Hobday for Roots of Happiness (2023)

Cerulean [suh-rule-ee-uhn]

Golden sands stretching for miles along the shore of a deep blue sea – it's the scene of a picture postcard. In fact, the sea can take on many colours as light bounces off it, from greens to blues and evenblack, but most of use see it in our minds as an exquisite blue – just as blue as the sky above it.

There is a word for this beautiful colour: 'cerulean', which was borrowed from the Latin caelum, meaning 'sky'. 'Cerulean' has been used by poets since the 17th century to describe the deep blue depths of the ocean, or the azure colour of a cloudless sky.


Lullabies are quiet, gentle bedtime songs that are sung to send children to sleep. The word 'lullaby' is almost as soothing as the songs themselves, don't you think? At its heart is the word 'lull', which means to calm or soothe, and 'bye', a word that you will often find in lullabies themselves, such as 'Rock-a-bye Baby'.

Illustration: Harriet Hobday for Roots of Happiness (2023)

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