A Collection of Word Oddities and Trivia, Page 12

Last revision: Apr. 17, 1999


LLANFAIRPWLLGWYNGYLLGOGERYCHWYRNDROBWLLLLANTYSILIOGOGOGOCH is according to one source the longest placename in the world, with 58 letters. It is a town in North Wales meaning "St. Mary's Church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the rapid whirlpool of Llantysilio of the red cave" or "St. Mary's (Church) by the white aspen over the whirlpool, and St. Tysilio's (Church) by the red cave" in Welsh.

Dale Williams of New Zealand says that the Welsh placename is a nineteenth-century fabrication, adopted to look good on their railway place boards, whereas a Maori name for a hill in New Zealand is genuine and was in general use. It has 85 letters: TAUMATAWHAKATANGIHANGAKOAUAUTAMATEATURIPUKAKAPIKI- MAUNGAHORONUKUPOKAIWHENUAKITANATAHU. Williams says, "If we want to go there now we call it Taumata." New Zealand broadcaster Henare Te Ua says the word celebrates the prowess of a great Maori chief who possessed enormous personal power. Chief Tamatea was so mighty and powerful that, metaphorically, he could even eat mountains. There was a gentle side to his personality too. He could play his nose flute beautifully and quite charmingly to his loved ones. The word, Henare said, means "The summit of the hill, where Tamatea, who is known as the land eater, slid down, climbed up and swallowed mountains, played on his nose flute to his loved one." The hill, about 1000 feet in height, is in Southern Hawke's Bay, a district on the eastern side of the north island. [Neil Carleton]

There is a 66-letter place name in Wales, according to Dr. David Crystal's Encyclopedia of Language: GORSAFAWDDACHAIDRAIGODANHEDDOGLEDDOLONPENRHYNAREURDRAETHCEREDIGION, meaning "the Mawddach station and its dragon teeth at the Northern Penrhyn Road on the golden beach of Cardigan bay."

According to The Book of Names by J. N. Hook, the longest place name in the U. S. may be NUNATHLOOGAGAMIUTBINGOI, the name of some dunes in Alaska, taken from Eskimo.

However, in Massachusetts, there is Lake CHARGOGAGOGMANCHARGOGAGOGCHARBUNAGUNGAMOG, usually listed on maps as "Lake Webster." It supposedly means "You fish on your side, I'll fish on my side, nobody fish in the middle."


The shortest placenames in the U. S. may be L (a lake in Nebraska) and T (a gulch in Colorado), each named for its shape, and D (a river in Oregon flowing from Devil's Lake to the Ocean near Lincoln City). According to Howard Lewis, the D River is the shortest river in the world. There are villages called A (with a ring over the A) in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, a Y in France, and U in the Pacific Caroline Islands.

The only one-letter placename in the index of the Rand McNally International Atlas is A, a peak in Hong Kong (although the Atlas shows political units named with Roman numerals).

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