A Collection of Word Oddities and Trivia, Page 11

Last revision: March 10, 2000


PNEUMONOULTRAMICROSCOPICSILICOVOLCANOCONIOSIS (45 letters; a lung disease caused by breathing in certain particles) is the longest word in any English-language dictionary. (It is also spelled -koniosis.)

On Feb. 23, 1935, the New York Herald-Tribune reported on page 3:

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis succeeded electrophotomicrographically as the longest word in the English language recognized by the National Puzzlers' League at the opening session of the organization's 103d semi-annual meeting held yesterday at the Hotel New Yorker.

The puzzlers explained that the forty-five-letter word is the name of a special form of silicosis caused by ultra-microscopic particles of siliceous volcanic dust.

The word appears in the 1936 Supplement to OED1, the OED2, the addendum to W2 (spelled -koniosis), W3 (spelled -coniosis), RHUD2, and Chambers.

The OED2 has:

pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (-koniosis), a factitious word alleged to mean 'a lung disease caused by the inhalation of very fine silica dust' but occurring chiefly as an instance of a very long word.
1936 F. Scully Bedside Manna 87 *Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanakoniosis [sic], a disease caused by ultra-microscopic particles of sandy volcanic dust, might give even him laryngitis.
1966 Word Study Oct. 7/2 The resources of Greek have enriched the modern world as well as the ancient one. Perhaps this is most dramatically illustrated by the longest and most fantastic word now in an English dictionary (the Merriam-Webster’s great Unabridged) which is forty-five letters in length: pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis,..meaning 'a disease of the lungs caused by extremely small particles of ash and dust'.
1973 R. Megarry Second Miscellany-at-Law 160 It has been said that 'floccinaucinihilipilification' is the longest word in the English language... The word’s proud title must yield to some technical terms, such as pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis.
The following appeared in a post in alt.usage.english:
I conjecture that this "word" was coined by word puzzlers, who then worked assiduously to get it into the major unabridged dictionaries (perhaps with a wink from the editors?) to put an end to the endless squabbling about what is the longest word.
Karl F. Lingenfelder reports that the domain name pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.com was registered on October 28, 1999, and that when activated it will point to http://www.mauigateway.com/~team/longestwordinenglish/ This is a commercial website selling domain names.

TETRAMETHYLDIAMINOBENZHYDRYLPHOSPHINOUS ACID (39 letters in the first word) appears in the OED2 in a citation for another word; this word itself is not a vocabulary entry.

HEPATICOCHOLANGIOCHOLECYSTENTEROSTOMIES (37 letters; surgical creation of a connection between the gall bladder and a hepatic duct and between the intestine and the gall bladder) is the longest word in Gould's Medical Dictionary.



SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS (34 letters) from the movie Mary Poppins is not the longest word in English, although many people believe it is. The word is in the OED, which has the following as the first four citations:

1949 Parker & Young (unpublished song-title) Supercalafajalistickespialadojus.
1951 Parker & Young (song-title) Supercalafajalistickespeealadojus; or, The super song.
1964 R. M. & R. B; Sherman (song-title) Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
1967 Decisions U.S. Courts involving Copyright 1965-66 488 The complaint alleges copyright infringement of plaintiff's song `Supercalafajalistickespeealadojus' by defendants' song 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.' (All variants of this tongue twister will hereinafter be referred to collectively as 'the word'.)
(The definition says Disney won, "in view of earlier oral uses of the word sworn to in affidavits" and because they wrote the rest of the song themselves.)

DICHLORODIPHENYLTRICHLOROETHANE (31 letters; usually abbreviated DDT) is the longest word in the Macquarie Dictionary and is in the OED2.

FLOCCINAUCINIHILIPILIFICATION (29 letters; an estimation of something as worthless) is the longest word in the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. In this word the letter i occurs nine times, but e, the most commonly used letter in English, does not occur.

The word dates back to 1741. It has been used by Sir Walter Scott and Senators Robert Byrd and Daniel Patrick Moynihan. It was used by Senator Jesse Helms in 1999 during the debate on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty [Randolph V. Cinco].

It also appeared on March 14, 1996, in "Zippy," a comic strip distributed by King Features Syndicate:

Do you think I may be too quick to find fault with things and people, Zippy?
Th' 'floccinaucinihilipilification' process.
Th' what?
Floccinaucinihilipilification!! It means 'the estimation of something as valueless'!
You've been randomly reading th' dictionary, haven't you?
Yes. That and my natural tendency toward antifloccinaucinihilipilification!!
Floccinaucinihilipilification was also used by Press Secretary Mike McCurry in his December 6, 1995, White House Press Briefing in discussing Congressional Budget Office estimates and assumptions: "But if you -- as a practical matter of estimating the economy, the difference is not great. There's a little bit of floccinaucinihilipilification going on here."

TRINITROPHENYLMETHYLNITRAMINE (29 letters; a type of explosive) is the longest chemical term in W3.

ANTIDISESTABLISHMENTARIANISM (28 letters) may be the best-known long word. The word means "the belief which opposes removing the tie between church and state."

HONORIFICABILITUDINITATIBUS (27 letters) is the longest word used by Shakespeare. It appears in Love's Labor's Lost, Act V, Scene I, and is spoken by Costard:

O, they have lived long on the alms-basket of words.
I marvel thy master hath not eaten thee for a word;
for thou art not so long by the head as
honorificabilitudinitatibus: thou art easier
swallowed than a flap-dragon.
Both W1 and W2, which include every word used by Shakespeare, define the word as "honorableness" and label it a "pedantic nonsense word." It is the ablative plural of the Latin contrived honorificabilitudinitas, which is an extension of honorificabilis meaning "honorableness." It first occurs in English in 1599, used by Thomas Nashe. The letters can be rearranged to give "Hi ludi F. Baconis nati tuiti orbi," meaning, "These plays, F. Bacon's offspring, are preserved for the world." This fact has been cited by proponents of the theory that Francis Bacon actually wrote Shakespeare's plays.

The next-longest words used by Shakespeare are ANTHROPOPHAGINIAN, INDISTINGUISHABLE, and UNDISTINGUISHABLE (all with 17 letters) and INCOMPREHENSIBLE and NORTHAMPTONSHIRE (both with 16 letters) [Nelson H. F. Beebe].

ELECTROENCEPHALOGRAPHICALLY and ETHYLENEDIAMINETETRAACETATE (27 letters) are the longest words without spaces or hyphens in MWCD10.


METHYLCHLOROISOTHIAZOLINONE (27 letters) is found in Pert Plus shampoo, according to John Carroll.

ANTITRANSUBSTANTIATIONALIST (27 letters; one who doubts that consecrated bread and wine actually change into the body and blood of Christ).

ETHYLENEDIAMINETETRAACETIC ACID (26 letters in the first word) is in MWCD10. The substance is abbreviated EDTA.

ANHYDROHYDROXYPROGESTERONE (26 letters; a synthetic crystalline female sex hormone) is the third-longest chemical term in W3.

CYSTOURETEROPYELONEPHRITIS (26 letters; a combined inflammation of the urinary bladder, ureters, and kidneys) is a long medical term mentioned by Paul Hellweg in The Insomniac's Dictionary.

SUPEREXTRAORDINARISIMO is the longest word in Spanish, according to Guinness 1995. However, the legitimacy of this word is open to dispute. Nidia Cobiella points out that there are numerous similarly-formed questionable words, such as superextraordinariamente, superespectacularisimo, otorrinolaringologistico, endocrinologicamente, apesadumbradisimamente, descontaminadamente, requeterequeteacostumbrado, sobreabundantisimamente, superimaginariamente, superexcelentisimamente, superpsicoanalisticamente, and desconsideradisimamente. SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICOESPIALIDOSO (from Mary Poppins) has also been suggested. The legitimate words OTORRINOLARINGOLOGIA and OTORRINOLARINGOLOGO could also lead to superotorrinolaringologo and superotorrinolaringologisimo.

ANTICONSTITUTIONNELLEMENT is the longest official word in French [Jacques Raymond Kilchoër].

NEBEPASIKISKIAKOPUSTELIAUJANCIUOSIUOSE (38 letters) is possibly the longest Lithuanian word that can be formed according to legal grammatical rules (so it can't be regarded as completely coined). It means "in those, of masculine gender, who aren't gathering wood sorrel by themselves anymore." The meaning is obscure but possible, e.g. in a fairy tale about hares: "A terrible hunger arose in the [long word] hares" [Juozas Rimas].

IRAPUSATINKAATSEMPOKITASANOIGAVETAPAAKEMPAROROKARITYO is the longest word in Matsigenka (also spelled Machiguenga). It means: They will probably really go head over heels into the water when they arrive but not stay that way [Pierre Abbat].

INCONSTITUCIONALISSIMAMENTE (27 letters) is the longest word in Portuguese. It is translated "in a way that really goes against the constitution" [Carlos Andre Branco].

ZAGIPNOTIZIROVAVSHEMUSYA (22 letters) is a long Russian word meaning "to him who has hypnotized himself" [Pierre Abbat].

In a post in sci.math in 1995, Matthew P. Wiener suggested that the longest word in mathematics that is an accepted standard term is RHOMBICOSIDODECAHEDRON. He listed these other long mathematical words of dubious validity: DODECAHEMIDODECAHEDRON, DODECICOSIDODECAHEDRON, ICOSICOSIDODECAHEDRON, ICOSIDODECADODECAHEDRON, PSEUDODIFFERENTIABILITY, QUASIRHOMBICOSIDODECAHEDRON, and SUPERRENORMALIZABILITY.

Fredrik Viklund found LÅGTRYCKSKVICKSILVERÅNGURLADDNINGSANORDNING in a Swedish patent application from approximately 1910-1930. It referred to what is now called a "lysrör" in common language. It means "Low pressure quicksilver vapour discharge apparatus."

SMILES is supposed to be the longest word in the dictionary because "there's a mile between the two S's." Randal J. May points out that adding one letter to SMILE adds two syllables (in forming SIMILE).

According to Red Skelton, the longest word is the word that follows the announcement, "And now a word from our sponsor"!

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