Sometimes a picture says a thousand words; sometimes a word says a thousand letters. There are a few instances in the English language where a word is not constructed for the sake of communication so much as to break a world record, for spectacle’s sake. In that way, the English language is much like the Olympics; here are ten words that really go the distance.
Note: the following are words in the non-strictest sense, being that some are technical terms, some have been coined, while others actually appear in the dictionary. Depending on which school of thought you subscribe to, lists may very on the basis of “what constitutes a word” (and some may argue simply that letters constitute a word).
Additional note: tying for the #7 spot is the word “hippopotomonstrosesquipedalian.” It also contains 30 letters. Let its omission be justified by saying this list, in and of itself, is hippopotomonstrosesquipedalian (i.e. “that which pertains to extremely long words”).
This 27-letter word coined by Shakespeare, in his comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost, is a testament to the Bard’s own intralexiconic skills. Meaning “the state of being able to achieve honors,” the word is the longest one in the English language with alternating consonants and vowels (Take a look for yourself….yep.).
Containing 28-letters, antidisestablishmentarianism is the longest proper word, consisting of proper and compatible root and affix attachments. After all the Lego blocks have been snapped together, the word comes to mean “the movement or ideology that opposes disestablishment (i.e. the separation of church and state, as in the movement that took place in 1860’s England).” The word has a dated relevance, or else is the greatest living thing in a world history nerd’s vocabulary.
This 29-letter word, pieced together from Latin stems, means simply “the deeming of something to be trivial.” One letter more than antidisestablishmentarianism, and just as big of a mouthful, it is a valid dictionary entry with a usefulness that is much greater than anything it might be placed beside contextually. Some readers might even be able to maintain a floccinaucinihilipilification for this list.
This 30-letter word is a technical one for a type of inherited disorder. An individual with such a disorder resembles someone with Pseudohypoparathyroidism Type 1A, but doesn’t possess a deficiency in calcium or PTH levels (which mark the essential differences between Pseudohypoparathyroidism 1A and Hypoparathyroidism).
To put it far more basically, the word is much more fun to say than to have.
This 34-letter word, which was coined by song-writers Richard and Robert Sherman in the musical film Mary Poppins, is completely made-up, the sum of word parts that don’t even follow proper prefix/suffix placement protocol; the “-istic” following “fragil-” is a suffix, which should signify a word’s end. However, it is followed by the prefix “ex-,” where a new, separate word should begin. Nonetheless, it is just another example of a phrase being irretrievably carried off by and imbedded within the culture into which it was born. Just as how words are invented all the time in rap culture, and swallowed up by a constantly-evolving (or devolving) language system.
The word, containing definable roots, means something like “Atoning for educability through delicate beauty.” Miss Poppins, however, would insist the word means “something to say when you have nothing to say.”
The term refers to a kind of lung disease caused by a finely-powdered silica dust. This word, containing 45 letters, does appear in the dictionary, but was created primarily just for the sake of a long word. An equivalent of what the word is going for, albeit by taking the long way home, is a condition simply called silicosis. Any doctor diagnosing the former is obviously getting paid by the hour.
This 52-letter word was engendered by Dr. Edward Strother in order to describe spa waters of Bath, England in a single word. The sum of individually-meaningful parts, the word altogether means roughly, “equally salty, calcium-rich, waxy, containing aluminum and copper, and vitriolic.” Of course this word has very few applications elsewhere. Unless maybe you were talking about some kind of 9V-battery-powered robotic chicken wing.
This word, which shan’t be uttered twice, is a transliteration of a word coined by Greek author Aristophanes in his comic play Assemblywomen. Containing 171 letters, it is the longest word appearing in literature and refers to a fictional dish; the word quite literally is just the smooshing together of the 17 ingredients contained within (including sharks, pigeons, honey, and various unappetizing animal parts). Don’t expect to see this listed on any menu, as there surely wouldn’t be enough room to list anything else.
What you just stared at is the 1913-letter chemical name for tryptophan synthetase, a protein (an enzyme, to be exact) with 267 amino acids. Of course, it’s completely impractical to actually utter this prankster’s approach to making huge words (the largest one in print), and just looking at it for too long might even lead you to believe there are words and phrases hidden in there like a word search (if you look closely the word “party” shows up a few times, as does something resembling “asparagus”). Of course, when you cut-and-paste such a word (rather than risk missing even a single letter, for accuracy’s sake), you risk looking like an ass by not thoroughly combing through that contrived brick-o’-letters.
1. [Titin’s Chemical Name]
This 189,819-letter word shall not be printed in its entirety, partially because it is literally too big to print (without filling the space of a short novella that is), and would be a waste of time and hard drive space. Along the same lines as the last example, it is a derivation of the chemical components that comprise the protein; abridged, the word is “Methionylthreonylthreonyl…isoleucine,” really not worth seeing sprawled-out if for a single-purpose novelty (the only real purpose a chemical name could possibly serve).