Diana Lăpușneanuin Language Tips | October 29, 2018
It's so long you're going to have a hard time posting it on Twitter.
Whether you landed on this page out of curiosity or because you needed a little help for a Hangman game, get ready! Fasten your imaginary seatbelt because we’re about to take to the skies looking for the longest word in the world. My job, as a captain, is to make sure you find this journey fruitful and rich in big words! Meanwhile, my own deepest desire is to find “the one” – the longest word in English!
Warning: Those suffering from hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia (fear of long words) should not embark on this discovery mission. Here’s what we are going to learn today:
- The longest word in English
- The longest word in the dictionary
- The longest German word
- The longest word in Spanish
- The longest word in Afrikaans
- The longest word in Danish
- The longest word in Dutch
- The longest word in Finnish
- The longest word in French
- The longest word in Icelandic
- The longest word in Italian
- The longest word in Greek
- The longest word in Polish
- The longest word in Turkish
- The longest word in Welsh
What is the longest word in the world?
Like any discovery mission that dreams big, our first stop explores a ridiculously long word – 189,819 letters – that is also kinda fake. Sorry to ruin it for you. It would have been too good to be true, just like Hogwarts.
So long story short, yes, the longest word in the world is 189,819-letters long. But it’s a hoax. Its genesis is fascinating though.
As you very well know, chemical names can sometimes be sesquipedalian (= very long). This is also the case of titin – a giant human protein responsible for the muscle’s passive elasticity. Although it has its name derived from the giant Greek deity Titan, titin was annoyed at the fact that it sounded cute, so it asked The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry for a name worthy of its size.
Just joking! But yes, titin also has the longest IUPAC name of a protein. Its 189,819 letters long name would take around three and a half hours to pronounce. You can find various attempts on Youtube or… you can try and pronounce that yourself and accept the honorary title of The King/Queen of Pronunciation.
Unfortunately for titin, its chemical name hasn’t made it into any of the major dictionaries. So that is why it’s “unofficial”. In fact, many argue that this isn’t even a word.
Anyway, here’s a glimpse of the little titan’s name:
alylthreonyl (………. blah blah blah) glutaminylalanylarginylthreonylthreonylglutaminylvalylgluta
Good luck posting it on Twitter!
The longest word in English – fake version turned official
This is getting more and more interesting. This next word wasn’t originally mentioned in any major dictionaries. In fact, it was originally invented by the president of the National Puzzlers’ League as a synonym for the disease known as silicosis with the sole purpose of becoming a candidate for the longest word in English.
Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis – because this is the word we are talking about – is 45 letters long andOxford Dictionaries define it as “an invented long word said to mean a lung disease caused by inhaling very fine ash and sand dust” (silica or quartz dust – hence the shortened version of “silicosis”).
The 45-letter “Godzilla” word, lately referred to as “P45”, first appeared in the 1939 supplement to the Merriam-Webster New International Dictionary, Second Edition.
The longest word in the dictionary – really official version
Enough with the jokes already! This one is for real. Promise.
Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism is a 30-letter word defined by the Oxford Dictionaries as “a genetic disorder in which the skeletal abnormalities of pseudohypoparathyroidism are present without the biochemical abnormalities common to hypoparathyroidism and pseudohypoparathyroidism” – in normal human language that roughly translates to “thyroid disorder”. Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism is the longest non-coined word to appear in a major dictionary.
Unfortunately, our top doesn’t include a non-technical word so far, so we should keep looking.
P.S.: Oxford Dictionaries put together an extended list of long words (all technical) that will make you the master of the Hangman game. Here it is:
- spectrophotofluorometrically – 28 letters
- hepaticocholangiogastrostomy – 28 letters
- psychoneuroendocrinological – 27 letters
- radioimmunoelectrophoresis – 26 letters
- pneumoencephalographically – 26 letters
- immunoelectrophoretically – 25 letters
- psychophysicotherapeutics – 25 letters
- thyroparathyroidectomized – 25 letters
- otorhinolaryngological – 22 letters
The debate on the longest non-coined, non-technical word in the dictionary
There’s a great debate regarding this topic. Many say that “floccinaucinihilipilification” (29-letters) should be crowned the longest non-coined, non-technical word, but some regard it as coined. However, Oxford Dictionaries define it as “the action or habit of estimating something as worthless”. The poor freak originates from Latin flocci, nauci, nihili, pili (words meaning ‘at little value’) + -fication.
Moving on, we find out that others mention “antidisestablishmentarianism” (28 letters) as the longest non-coined, non-technical word. While Oxford Dictionaries define this as “opposition to the disestablishment of the Church of England”, Merriam Webster has a very strong opinion on that and claims that this word does not deserve its place in the dictionary: “we can’t put antidisestablishmentarianism in the dictionary because there’s hardly any record of its use as a real word. It’s only cited as an example of a long word—which is not the same thing”.
Finally, the word everybody seems to agree on is electroencephalographically (27 letters). Fair enough! We heard about that, haven’t we? By the sound of it, I’d say it’s connected to the “electroencephalograph” – a machine used to measure electrical activity in different parts of the brain.
Now that you know all the arguments of this complicated debate, feel free to be the judge and decide which one is the longest word in the dictionary, the longest word in the English language or even the longest word in the galaxy!
Bonus: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (34 letters)
This is your absolute favorite. You thought this was the longest word, haven’t you? But supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is, in fact, a coined word made popular by Marry Poppins. Because you tried to pronounce it countless times, here’s a little help:
The longest German word
When the “what is the longest word in the world?” question popped up into your mind, you immediately answered with “hmm… this one must be German”. But before getting into this, you should know a little bit about agglutinative languages. If you ever studied Latin, you may have already guessed that “agglutinative” is derived from the Latin verb agglutinare, which means “to glue together”. Thus, agglutinative languages are those languages that allow the creation of long words via compounding and German, Dutch and Persian are just a few of them.
Back to our main mission, the longest German word that was not created artificially seems to be rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz (63 letters). The word literally means “law delegating beef label monitoring”.
Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft (79 letters), was crowned the longest published word in the German language by the 1972 Guinness Book of World Records, but it seems that even longer words are possible. The gigantic word translates to “Association for Subordinate Officials of the Main Maintenance Building of the Danube Steam Shipping Electrical Services”.
The longest word in Spanish and 11 other languages
Because it is considered a global language and the world’s second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese, I decided I must include the longest word in Spanish in our discovery mission.
So here it is: the longest word in Spanish is esternocleidomastoideitis (30 letters) – this is a medical term which translates to “inflammation of the sternocleidomastoid muscle”. Surprisingly short, don’t you think?
The longest word in Afrikaans
Tweedehandsemotorverkoopsmannevakbondstakingsvergaderingsameroeperstoespraakskrywerspersverklaringuitreikingsmediakonferensieaankondiging (136 letters) – translates to “issuable media conference’s announcement at a press release regarding the convener’s speech at a secondhand car dealership union’s strike meeting”.
The longest word in Danish
Mother tongue of the talented actor Mads Mikkelsen, Danish is a language that allows its speakers to put nouns together always forming new and extremely long words.
For example, Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, King of Dreamy Fairy Tales and children’s favorite author, named one of his characters (from “The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep”) Gedebukkebensoverogundergeneralkrigskommandersergenten (54 letters). That translates to “General-clothes-press-inspector-head-superintendent-Goat-legs” and in literal translation sounds even funnier than that: “the goaty-legged-above-and-under-general-war-commanding-sergeant”. The author’s intention was to make fun of the Danish military titles.
The longest word in Dutch
Like many Germanic languages, Dutch is capable of forming compounds of potentially limitless length. However, meervoudigepersoonlijkheidsstoornissen (38 letters) is the longest word that was included in the Van Dale Dutch dictionary. The giant word means “multiple personality disorders”.
The longest word in Finnish
Peruspalveluliikelaitoskuntayhtymä (34 letters) — it’s present in the everyday use of the Finnish language (can you even imagine that?) and “translates to “a public utility of a municipal federation for the provision of basic services”.
But even longer words are possible!Epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydellänsäkäänköhän (48 letters) is one of them (although it seems like more than one) and translates to “I wonder if – even with his/her quality of not having been made unsystematized”.
The longest word in French
Anticonstitutionnellement (25 letters) — translates to “contrary to the constitution”. Pretty straightforward, I’d say.
The longest word in Icelandic
Vaðlaheiðarvegavinnuverkfærageymsluskúraútidyralyklakippuhringur (64 letters) — whoa there, Icelandic. Take it easy. This absolute giant means “a keychain ring for the outdoor key of road workers shed in a moor called Vaðlaheið” in English.
The longest word in Italian
Precipitevolissimevolmente (26 letters) — the superlative form of precipitevolmente (“hastily, precipitously”). The word is used more in jokes than in everyday language. Nevertheless, it is now an official word in the Italian language although it was originally coined by poet Francesco Moneti.
The longest word in Greek
In his comedy, Assemblywomen (written in 391 BC), Aristophanes invented a 173-letter word: “lopadotemachoselachogaleokranioleipsanodrimhypotrimmatosilphioparaomelitokatakechymenokichlepikossyphophattoperisteralektryonoptekephalliokigklopeleiolagoiosiraiobaphetraganopterygon“. The monster word named a fictional food dish consisting of a combination of fish and other meat.
Modern Greek words, on the other hand, are much shorter:ηλεκτροεγκεφαλογράφημα (ilektroenkefalográfima), is a 22-letter word that means “electroencephalogram”. Yes, you remember that correctly! It really is connected to the word we mentioned for English (electroencephalographically).
The longest word in Polish
Polish allows the creation of gigantic adjectives from numerals and nouns. For example, dziewięćsetdziewięćdziesiątdziewięćmiliardówdziewięćsetdziewięćdziesiątdziewięćmilionówdziewięćsetdziewięćdziesiątdziewięćtysięcydziewięćsetdziewięćdziesięciodziewięcioletniego is 176 letters long and it means “of 999,999,999,999 years old”.
But one of the longest common Polish words is dziewięćdziesięciokilkuletniemu (31 letters) — the dative singular form of “ninety-and-some years old one”.
The longest word in Turkish
As an agglutinative language, Turkish carries the potential for huge words such as muvaffakiyetsizleştiricileştiriveremeyebileceklerimizdenmişsinizcesine (70 letters)
that means “as if you would be from those we can not easily/quickly make a maker of unsuccessful ones”.
The longest word in Welsh
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (51 letters) is a large village and local government community on the island of Anglesey in Wales and the longest place name in the Welsh language.
Because she lived in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch for a while, actress Naomi Watts is nailing the pronunciation of this place name:
Suddenly “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” seems waaay shorter and easier to pronounce, doesn’t it?
The longest words with one syllable, no vowels and all vowels
The longest one-syllable word
The most popular one seems to be “screeched” (9 letters), but other sources mention even 14-letter one-syllable words like “halfpennyworth” (15 letters for the plural form). The Oxford Dictionaries also mention “schlepped”, “scratched”, “scrounged”, “scrunched”, “stretched”, and the plural nouns “straights” and “strengths” (all 9-letters long).
Longest words without vowels (all consonants):“rhythms” (7 letters), “spryly” (6 letters), “syzygy” (6 letters).
Longest words with all vowels:
- “Ai”, also known as the maned sloth;
- “Aa”, a type of lava;
- “Aye-aye”, a type of lemur;
- “Euouae”, a musical cadence taken from the vowels in the hymn Gloria Patri doxology: “seculorum Amen”, is the longest English word spelled without any consonant letters.
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