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Do you remember – when you were a child – learning (then gleefully reciting) what you thought was the longest word in the English language? Was it ANTIDISESTABLISHMENTARIANISM? Or the similarly long SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS?
There are longer ones...
However, there is no easy answer that we can give when our visitors ask us for the longest word in the English language. Most very long words only occur in one or two dictionaries, and often they are debatably not words at all. For example, ANTIDISESTABLISHMENTARIANISM has possibly never really been used to mean "the belief which opposes removing the tie between church and state." Certainly 99 in 100 times it is used as an example of a long word. And who says you can't put NON– (for example) on the beginning to make it even longer?
This problem is even more evident in chemical names. Most chemicals are named using a systematic naming system which methodically describes the molecule's structure. Some molecules, such as proteins, are huge, so it is possible to come up with genuine words containing millions of letters. But of course no chemist uses these really long names in practice.
Here we look at some of the longest words in English dictionaries, and discuss whether they should be considered to be real words. Interesting long chemical terms and place names are listed separately afterwards. The red numbers indicate the length (number of letters) of the word that follows.
Longest Words(45) PNEUMONOULTRAMICROSCOPICSILICOVOLCANOCONIOSIS (also spelled PNEUMONOULTRAMICROSCOPICSILICOVOLCANOKONIOSIS) = a lung disease caused by breathing in particles of siliceous volcanic dust.
This is the longest word in any English dictionary. However, it was coined by Everett Smith, the President of The National Puzzlers' League, in 1935 purely for the purpose of inventing a new "longest word". The Oxford English Dictionary described the word as factitious. Nevertheless it also appears in the Webster's, Random House, and Chambers dictionaries.
(37) HEPATICOCHOLANGIOCHOLECYSTENTEROSTOMIES = a surgical creation of a connection between the gall bladder and a hepatic duct and between the intestine and the gall bladder.
(34) SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS = song title from the Walt Disney movie Mary Poppins.
That saved me achin' nose,
The biggest word you ever 'eard,
And this is 'ow it goes:
(30) HIPPOPOTOMONSTROSESQUIPEDALIAN = pertaining to a very long word.
(29) FLOCCINAUCINIHILIPILIFICATION = an estimation of something as worthless.
(28) ANTIDISESTABLISHMENTARIANISM = the belief which opposes removing the tie between church and state.
(27) HONORIFICABILITUDINITATIBUS = honorableness.
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."
Shakespeare does not use any other words over 17 letters in length.
(27) ANTITRANSUBSTANTIATIONALIST = one who doubts that consecrated bread and wine actually change into the body and blood of Christ.
(21) DISPROPORTIONABLENESS and (21) INCOMPREHENSIBILITIES
Some say SMILES is the longest word because there is a MILE between the first and last letters!
Chemical TermsTwo chemical terms (3,641 and 1,913 letters long) have appeared in the Guinness Book of World Records. They were withdrawn because they have never been used by chemists, and there is no theoretical limit to the length of possible legitimate chemical terms. A DNA molecule could have a name of over 1,000,000,000 letters if it was written out in full.
(39) TETRAMETHYLDIAMINOBENZHYDRYLPHOSPHINOUS = a type of acid.
(31) DICHLORODIPHENYLTRICHLOROETHANE = a pesticide used to kill lice; abbrv. DDT.
(29) TRINITROPHENYLMETHYLNITRAMINE = a type of explosive.
(26) ETHYLENEDIAMINETETRAACETIC = a type of acid; abbrv. EDTA.
Place NamesThere are many long place names around the world. Here are a few of the largest.
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