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Know It All: What’s the Longest Word in the English Language?

No chemical names, no names of places, and no made up words either. Plain and simple: what’s the longest word in the English language?

 

Everybody has that moment when they realize they don’t know about something that they should probably know about. Whether it’s history, language, science, or cultural phenomena, you’ve felt the stinging personal embarrassment of a moment wherein you realize there’s some common knowledge that isn’t so common. Don’t feel bad; nobody knows everything. Nobody, that is, except me and my sidekick, The Internet!

Somewhere in the world, a confused soul begs the question…

What’s the Longest Word in the English Language?

Get ready for a lot of letters.

First of all, we’re throwing out both chemical names (because those are derived from a systematic process and there are countless protein names, for example, with over 1000 letters), place names (because those can be whatever someone wants them to be – including an 85-letter title of a hill), and other created names (like this little number from Aristophanes).

The longest word that appears in a major dictionary is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis – it bears 45 letters and serves as the name for a disease of the lungs. It is regarded as a coined term (in this case, a technical letter-by-letter “transliteration” from a Greek word), not a “naturally occurring” term.

The longest non-coined word that appears in a major dictionary is pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism30 letters long, defined as a variation of the disorder known as pseudohypoparathyroidism.

Though both of the above words are legitimate in that they are actual words with meaning, they do both carry a bit of an asterisk, with their scientific/technical foundations (I mean seriously: one of the words starts off “pseudopseudo-”).

The longest non-technical English word currently recognized by The People Who Recognize Words is floccinaucinihilipilification. It is a noun directly adapted from Latin that is defined as “an estimation of something as worthless”. Its 29-letter total ranks it as just one letter longer than…

Antidisestablishmentarianism: one of the most commonly cited “long words” in the English language, this word has much more practical application than everything else listed above (although it’s rare you’re going to find yourself in a situation where you need to define “the belief which opposes removing the tie between church and state”). Regardless, if you’re all about statistics, you can turn antidisestablishmentarianism into antidisestablishmentarianistically and bump it up to 34 letters to seal the Long Word Championship.

Now you know.

About

Justin Brown is a writer and artist living in Virginia. He channels most of his mind's molten river of creativity into his blog Esteban Was Eaten!. For even more information about him, check out his website.

 
  • http://www.thezeroboss.com/ The Zero Boss

    Love antidisestablishmentarianism. Learned that in high school. And I think it’s immensely practical – to whit:

    “I oppose the antidisestablishmentarianism promulgated by the fundamentalist right wing of the Republican party.”

    Now if only I could work it into a blog post…
    .-= The Zero Boss´s last blog ..Children’s Author Consigned to Texas Ed Board’s Terrorist Watch List =-.

  • kris

    Very cool article. The one on Turing also rocked.

  • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

    Thanks Kris!

  • Ann

    Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia – 35 letters. Means fear of long words.

  • Meat Hammer

    Prematrimonialinterdigitationalism – 34 – belief in holding hands before marriage.

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