Euphony is a term used to refer to a word or phrase that is pleasing in sound, specifically one that includes consonants and vowels that work well together. This typically relies on vowel sounds, or soft consonants, as well as words that are relaxing or melodic in nature. While a single word can be euphonic on its own, this more often refers to a line or passage from a work of poetry or prose that creates an overall sense of pleasantness. In contrast to euphony is cacophony, which refers to a series of sounds that are unpleasant or jarring within a word or phrase.
The purpose of euphony in a written work is to create a section that is pleasing to the ear, especially for works that are going to be read aloud. Speeches and poetry, which are often spoken to crowds or meant for reading out loud, often benefit from euphony within them. Visually, however, this device can still be effective, since many people hear words in their minds as they read them, replicating the effect of these words being spoken. Although the focus of euphony is typically upon the sounds made within words, even the meaning of those words is important, and so the entire passage helps create a sense of ease.
Different words and sounds can create euphony, though vowels are commonly viewed as more soothing than consonants. Softer consonants, like "w" and "s" can be relaxing and pleasant to the ear, while sounds like "k" and "t" are usually thought of as harder and less pleasing. A phrase that creates a sense of euphony would be something like, "The susurrus of song birds serenaded them beneath the moonlight in the mossy garden." In this example, there are many vowel sounds and soft consonants like "s" and "th" that work with the meaning of the words to evoke a soothing feeling.
Cacophony is the opposite of euphony and is the creation of sounds within words or phrases that are unpleasant and harsh. When this happens accidentally, it is typically considered to be a mistake or sign of poor writing, as the result is a sense of unease or disquiet in the mind of a listener. In works of poetry and prose, however, cacophony can be used on purpose, as a way to set a section apart from the rest and make it stand out, especially if it is meant to convey unpleasant ideas. An example of this might be a phrase like, "Tall and strong, the towering mountains stood in the distance, beyond the cracked and sunburned dessert."