Longest word in English

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The identity of the longest word in English depends upon the definition of what constitutes a word in the English language, as well as how length should be compared. In addition to words derived naturally from the language's roots (without any known intentional invention), English allows new words to be formed by coinage and construction; place names may be considered words; technical terms may be arbitrarily long. Length may be understood in terms of orthography and number of written letters, or (less commonly) phonology and the number of phonemes.

Word Letters Characteristics Dispute
Methionylthreonylthreonylglutaminylarginyl...isoleucine 189,819 Chemical name of titin, the largest known protein Technical; not in dictionary; disputed whether it is a word
Methionylglutaminylarginyltyrosylglutamyl...serine 1,909 Longest published word[1] Technical
Lopadotemachoselachogaleokranioleipsano...pterygon 183 Longest word coined by a major author,[2] the longest word ever to appear in literature.[3] Coined; not in dictionary; Ancient Greek transliteration
Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis 45 Longest word in a major dictionary[4] Technical; coined to be the longest word
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious 34 Famous for being created for the Mary Poppins film and musical Coined
Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism 30 Longest non-coined word in a major dictionary[5] Technical
Floccinaucinihilipilification 29 Longest unchallenged nontechnical word Coined
Antidisestablishmentarianism 28 Longest non-coined and nontechnical word[6]
Honorificabilitudinitatibus 27 Longest word in Shakespeare's works; longest word in the English language featuring alternating consonants and vowels.[7] Latin

Major dictionaries

The longest word in any of the major English language dictionaries is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, a word that refers to a lung disease contracted from the inhalation of very fine silica particles,[8] specifically from a volcano; medically, it is the same as silicosis. The word was deliberately coined to be the longest word in English, and has since been used in a close approximation of its originally intended meaning, lending at least some degree of validity to its claim.[4]

The Oxford English Dictionary contains pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism (30 letters).

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary does not contain antidisestablishmentarianism, as the editors found no widespread, sustained usage of the word in its original meaning. The longest word in that dictionary is electroencephalographically (27 letters).[9]

The longest non-technical word in major dictionaries is flocci­nauci­nihili­pili­fication at 29 letters. Consisting of a series of Latin words meaning "nothing" and defined as "the act of estimating something as worthless"; its usage has been recorded as far back as 1741.[10][11][12]

Ross Eckler has noted that most of the longest English words are not likely to occur in general text, meaning non-technical present-day text seen by casual readers, in which the author did not specifically intend to use an unusually long word. According to Eckler, the longest words likely to be encountered in general text are deinstitutionalization and counterrevolutionaries, with 22 letters each.[13]

A computer study of over a million samples of normal English prose found that the longest word one is likely to encounter on an everyday basis is uncharacteristically, at 20 letters.[14]

The words Internationalization and localization are abbreviated "i18n" and "l10n", respectively, the embedded number representing the number of letters between the first and the last.

Coinages

In his play Assemblywomen (Ecclesiazousae), the ancient Greek comedic playwright Aristophanes created a word of 171 letters (183 in the transliteration below), which describes a dish by stringing together its ingredients:

Lopado­temakho­selakho­galeo­kranio­leipsano­drim­ypo­trimmato­silphio­karabo­melito­katakekhy­meno­kikhl­epi­kossypho­phatto­perister­alektryon­opto­kephallio­kigklo­peleio­lagōio­siraio­baphē­tragano­pterýgōn.

Henry Carey's farce Chrononhotonthologos (1743) holds the opening line: "Aldiborontiphoscophornio! Where left you Chrononhotonthologos?"

Thomas Love Peacock put these creations into the mouth of the phrenologist Mr. Cranium in his 1816 romp Headlong Hall: osteosarchaematosplanchnochondroneuromuelous (44 characters) and osseocarnisanguineoviscericartilaginonervomedullary (51 characters).

James Joyce made up nine 100-letter words plus one 101-letter word in his novel Finnegans Wake, the most famous of which is Bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk. Appearing on the first page, it allegedly represents the symbolic thunderclap associated with the fall of Adam and Eve. As it appears nowhere else except in reference to this passage, it is generally not accepted as a real word. Sylvia Plath made mention of it in her semi-autobiographical novel The Bell Jar, when the protagonist was reading Finnegans Wake.

"Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious", the 34-letter title of a song from the movie Mary Poppins, does appear in several dictionaries, but only as a proper noun defined in reference to the song title. The attributed meaning is "a word that you say when you don't know what to say." The idea and invention of the word is credited to songwriters Robert and Richard Sherman.

Constructions

The English language permits the legitimate extension of existing words to serve new purposes by the addition of prefixes and suffixes. This is sometimes referred to as agglutinative construction. This process can create arbitrarily long words: for example, the prefixes pseudo (false, spurious) and anti (against, opposed to) can be added as many times as desired. A word like anti-aircraft (pertaining to the defense against aircraft) is easily extended to anti-anti-aircraft (pertaining to counteracting the defense against aircraft, a legitimate concept) and can from there be prefixed with an endless stream of "anti-"s, each time creating a new level of counteraction. More familiarly, the addition of numerous "great"s to a relative, e.g. great-great-great-grandfather, can produce words of arbitrary length. In musical notation, a 1/1024th note may be called a semihemidemisemihemidemisemihemidemisemiquaver.

Antidisestablishmentarianism is the longest common example of a word formed by agglutinative construction.

Technical terms

A number of scientific naming schemes can be used to generate arbitrarily long words.

The IUPAC nomenclature for organic chemical compounds is open-ended, giving rise to the 189,819-letter chemical name Methionylthreonylthreonyl...isoleucine for the protein also known as titin, which is involved in striated muscle formation. In nature, DNA molecules can be much bigger than protein molecules and therefore potentially be referred to with much longer chemical names. For example, the wheat chromosome 3B contains almost 1 billion base pairs,[15] so the sequence of one of its strands, if written out in full like Adenilyladenilylguanilylcystidylthymidyl..., would be about 8 billion letters long. The longest published word, Acetylseryltyrosylseryliso...serine, referring to the coat protein of a certain strain of tobacco mosaic virus, was 1,185-letters long, and appeared in the American Chemical Society's Chemical Abstracts Service in 1964 and 1966.[16] In 1965, the Chemical Abstracts Service overhauled its naming system and started discouraging excessively long names.

John Horton Conway and Landon Curt Noll developed an open-ended system for naming powers of 10, in which one sexmilliaquingentsexagintillion, coming from the Latin name for 6560, is the name for 103(6560+1) = 1019683. Under the long number scale, it would be 106(6560) = 1039360.

Gammaracanthuskytodermogammarus loricatobaicalensis is sometimes cited as the longest binomial name—it is a kind of amphipod. However, this name, proposed by B. Dybowski, was invalidated by the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature.

Parastratiosphecomyia stratiosphecomyioides is the longest accepted binomial name. It's a species of soldier fly.[17]

Aequeosalinocalcalinoceraceoaluminosocupreovitriolic, at 52 letters, describing the spa waters at Bath, England, is attributed to Dr. Edward Strother (1675–1737).[18] The word is composed of the following elements:

  • Aequeo: equal (Latin, aequo[19])
  • Salino: containing salt (Latin, salinus)
  • Calcalino: calcium (Latin, calx)
  • Ceraceo: waxy (Latin, cera)
  • Aluminoso: alumina (Latin)
  • Cupreo: from "copper"
  • Vitriolic: resembling vitriol

Place names

There is some debate as to whether a place name is a legitimate word.

The longest officially recognized place name in an English-speaking country is Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu (85 letters), which is a hill in New Zealand. The name is in the Māori language.

In Canada, the longest place name is Dysart, Dudley, Harcourt, Guilford, Harburn, Bruton, Havelock, Eyre and Clyde, a township in Ontario, at 61 letters or 68 non-space characters.[20]

The 58-letter name Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is the name of a town on Anglesey, an island of Wales. In terms of the traditional Welsh alphabet, the name is only 51 letters long, as certain digraphs in Welsh are considered as single letters, for instance ll, ng and ch. It is generally agreed, however, that this invented name, adopted in the mid-19th century, was contrived solely to be the longest name of any town in Britain. The official name of the place is Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, commonly abbreviated to Llanfairpwll or Llanfair PG.

The longest non-contrived place name in the United Kingdom which is a single non-hyphenated word is Cottonshopeburnfoot (19 letters) and the longest which is hyphenated is Sutton-under-Whitestonecliffe (29 characters).

The longest place name in the United States (45 letters) is Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg, a lake in Webster, Massachusetts. It means "Fishing Place at the Boundaries – Neutral Meeting Grounds" and is sometimes facetiously translated as "you fish your side of the water, I fish my side of the water, nobody fishes the middle". The lake is also known as Lake Webster.[21] The longest hyphenated names in the U.S. are Winchester-on-the-Severn, a town in Maryland, and Washington-on-the-Brazos, a notable place in Texas history.

The longest official geographical name in Australia is Mamungkukumpurangkuntjunya Hill.[22] It has 26 letters and is a Pitjantjatjara word meaning "where the Devil urinates".[23]

In Ireland, the longest English placename at 22 letters is Muckanaghederdauhaulia (from the Irish language, Muiceanach Idir Dhá Sháile, meaning "pig-marsh between two saltwater inlets") in County Galway. If this is disallowed for being derived from Irish, or not a town, the longest at 19 letters is Newtownmountkennedy in County Wicklow.

Personal names

Guinness World Records formerly contained a category for longest personal name used.

  • From about 1975 to 1985, the recordholder was Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor William Xerxes Yancy Zeus Wolfe­schlegelstein­hausenberger­dorffvoraltern­waren­gewissenhaft­schaferswessen­schafewaren­wohlgepflege­und­sorgfaltigkeit­beschutzen­von­angreifen­durch­ihrraubgierigfeinde­welche­voraltern­zwolftausend­jahres­vorandieerscheinen­wander­ersteer­dem­enschderraumschiff­gebrauchlicht­als­sein­ursprung­von­kraftgestart­sein­lange­fahrt­hinzwischen­sternartigraum­auf­der­suchenach­diestern­welche­gehabt­bewohnbar­planeten­kreise­drehen­sich­und­wohin­der­neurasse­von­verstandigmen­schlichkeit­konnte­fortplanzen­und­sicher­freuen­anlebens­langlich­freude­und­ruhe­mit­nicht­ein­furcht­vor­angreifen­von­anderer­intelligent­geschopfs­von­hinzwischen­sternartigraum, Senior (746 letters), also known as Wolfe+585, Senior.
  • After 1985 Guinness briefly awarded the record to a newborn girl with a longer name. The category was removed shortly afterward.

Long birth names are often coined in protest of naming laws or for other personal reasons.

  • The naming law in Sweden was challenged by parents Lasse Diding and Elisabeth Hallin, who proposed the given name "Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116" for their child (pronounced [ˈalbɪn], 43 characters), which was rejected by a district court in Halmstad, southern Sweden.

Words with certain characteristics of notable length

  • Schmaltzed and strengthed (10 letters) appear to be the longest monosyllabic words recorded in The Oxford English Dictionary, while scraunched and scroonched appear to be the longest monosyllabic words recorded in Webster's Third New International Dictionary; but squirrelled (11 letters) is the longest if pronounced as one syllable only (as permitted in The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary at squirrel, and in Longman Pronunciation Dictionary). Schtroumpfed (12 letters) was coined by Umberto Eco, while broughammed (11 letters) was coined by William Harmon after broughamed (10 letters) was coined by George Bernard Shaw.
  • Strengths is the longest word in the English language containing only one vowel.
  • Euouae, a medieval musical term, is the longest English word consisting only of vowels, and the word with the most consecutive vowels. However, the "word" itself is simply a mnemonic consisting of the vowels to be sung in the phrase "seculorum Amen" at the end of the lesser doxology. (Although u was often used interchangeably with v, and the variant "Evovae" is occasionally used, the v in these cases would still be a vowel.)
  • The longest words with no repeated letters are dermatoglyphics, misconjugatedly and uncopyrightables.[24]
  • The longest word whose letters are in alphabetical order is the eight-letter Aegilops, a grass genus. However, this is arguably both Latin and a proper noun. There are several six-letter English words with their letters in alphabetical order, including abhors, almost, begins, biopsy, chimps and chintz.[25]
  • The longest words recorded in OED with each vowel only once, and in order, are abstemiously, affectiously, and tragediously (OED). Fracedinously and gravedinously (constructed from adjectives in OED) have thirteen letters; Gadspreciously, constructed from Gadsprecious (in OED), has fourteen letters. Facetiously is among the few other words directly attested in OED with single occurrences of all five vowels and the semivowel y.
  • The longest single palindromic word in English is rotavator, another name for a rotary tiller for breaking and aerating soil.

Typed words

  • The longest words typable with only the left hand using conventional hand placement on a QWERTY keyboard are tesseradecades, aftercataracts,[26] and the more common but sometimes hyphenated sweaterdresses.[25] Using the right hand alone, the longest word that can be typed is johnny-jump-up, or, excluding hyphens, monimolimnion[27] and phyllophyllin.
  • The longest English word typable using only the top row of letters has 11 letters: rupturewort. Similar words with 10 letters include: pepperwort, perpetuity, proprietor, requietory, repertoire, tripertite, pourriture and typewriter. The word teetertotter (used in North American English) is longer at 12 letters, although it is usually spelled with a hyphen.
  • The longest using only the middle row is shakalshas (10 letters). Nine-letter words include flagfalls, galahads and alfalfas.
  • Since the bottom row contains no vowels, no standard words can be formed. Exceptions might include Zzz, seen in some dictionaries to denote sleep, or m', the clitic form of my.[28]
  • The longest words typable by alternating left and right hands are antiskepticism and leucocytozoans respectively.[25]
  • On a Dvorak keyboard, the longest "left-handed" words are epopoeia, jipijapa, peekapoo, and quiaquia.[29] Other such long words are papaya, Kikuyu, opaque, and upkeep.[30] Kikuyu is typed entirely with the index finger, and so the longest one-fingered word on the Dvorak keyboard. There are no vowels on the right-hand side, and so the longest "right-handed" word is crwth.

Humour

Smiles, according to an old riddle, may be considered the longest word in English, as there is a mile between the first and last letter. A retort asserts that beleaguered is longer still, since it contains a league. The riddle and both jocular answers date from the 19th century.[31][32]

In the old time radio retrospective, Golden Radio, comedian Jack Benny jokes that "the longest word in the English language is the one that follows, 'Now, here's a word from our sponsor.'"

See also

References

  1. ^ Colista Moore (2011). Student's Dictionary. p. 524. ISBN 978-1-934669-21-1. 
  2. ^ see separate article Lopado...pterygon
  3. ^ Donald McFarlan; Norris Dewar McWhirter; David A. Boeh (1989). Guinness book of world records: 1990. Sterling. p. 129. ISBN 978-0-8069-5790-6. 
  4. ^ a b Coined around 1935 to be the longest word; press reports on puzzle league members legitimized it somewhat. First appeared in the MWNID supplement, 1939. Today OED and several others list it, but citations are almost always as "longest word". More detail at pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.
  5. ^ "What is the longest English word?". AskOxford. Archived from the original on 2012-04-12. Retrieved 2010-08-22. 
  6. ^ Oxford Dictionary Online
  7. ^ http://www.innocentenglish.com/cool-interesting-and-strange-facts/cool-strange-and-interesting-facts-page-3-3.html%7CSee fact #99
  8. ^ Definition for pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis - Oxford Dictionaries Online (World English)
  9. ^ "The Longest Word in the Dictionary" (Video). Ask the Editor. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 14 November 2013. 
  10. ^ "Floccinaucinihilipilification" by Michael Quinion World Wide Words;
  11. ^ The Guinness Book of Records, in its 1992 and previous editions, declared the longest real word in the English language to be floccinaucinihilipilification. More recent editions of the book have acknowledged pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. What is the longest English word? - Oxford Dictionaries Online
  12. ^ In recent times its usage has been recorded in the proceedings of the United States Senate by Senator Robert Byrd Discussion between Sen. Moynihan and Sen. Byrd "Mr. President, may I say to the distinguished Senator from New York, I used that word on the Senate floor myself 2 or 3 years ago. I cannot remember just when or what the occasion was, but I used it on that occasion to indicate that whatever it was I was discussing it was something like a mere trifle or nothing really being of moment." Congressional Record June 17, 1991, p. S7887, and at the White House by Bill Clinton's press secretary Mike McCurry, albeit sarcastically. 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."
  13. ^ Eckler, R. Making the Alphabet Dance, p 252, 1996.
  14. ^ "Longest Common Words – Modern". Maltron.com. Retrieved 2010-08-22. [dead link]
  15. ^ Paux et al. (2008) Science, Vol. 322 (5898) 101-104. A Physical Map of the 1-Gigabase Bread Wheat Chromosome 3B [1]
  16. ^ Chemical Abstracts Formula Index, Jan.-June 1964, Page 967F; Chemical Abstracts 7th Coll. Formulas, C23H32-Z, 56-65, 1962-1966, Page 6717F
  17. ^ World's longest name of an animal. Parastratiosphecomyia stratiosphecomyioides Stratiomyid Fly Soldier Fly
  18. ^ cited in some editions of the Guinness Book of Records as the longest word in English, see Askoxford.com on the longest English word Archived 12 April 2012 at WebCite
  19. ^ [2][dead link]
  20. ^ "GeoNames Government of Canada site". 
  21. ^ Belluck, Pam (2004-11-20). "What's the Name of That Lake? It's Hard to Say". The New York Times. 
  22. ^ "Geoscience Australia Gazeteer". 
  23. ^ "South Australian State Gazeteer". 
  24. ^ "Fun With Words: Word Oddities". Rinkworks.com. Retrieved 2010-08-22. 
  25. ^ a b c "Typewriter Words". Questrel.com. Retrieved 2010-08-22. 
  26. ^ "Science Links Japan | Two Unique Aftercataracts Requiring Surgical Removal". Sciencelinks.jp. 2009-03-18. Retrieved 2010-08-22. 
  27. ^ "Dictionary entry for monimolimnion, a word that, at 13 letters, is longer than any of the words linked in the source above". Retrieved 2009-08-15. 
  28. ^ "Word Records". Fun-with-words.com. Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  29. ^ "Typewriter Words". Wordnik.com. Retrieved 2011-01-15. 
  30. ^ "The Dvorak Keyboard and You". Theworldofstuff.com. Retrieved 2010-08-22. 
  31. ^ Wayside gleanings for leisure moments. J. Wilson and son. 1882. p. 122. 
  32. ^ Even "longer" words exist (e.g., gigaparsecs, with a gigaparsec before the final s), according to the logic implicit in the jokes.

External links

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Wiktionary has a category on Long English words