The Longest Word

Rohit Khare (
Sat, 23 Oct 1999 13:45:05 -0700

Cached copy of=20
follows... RK


an answer to the silly question
what is the longest word in the english language?

* Introduction
* Select by Length
* View List
* Appendix 1 - according to Macquarie
* Appendix 2 - sources

The question 'what is the longest word in English' or 'what is the=20
longest word in the world' is one that is not really answerable. The=20
question always comes down to one of what exactly a 'word' is.

The words in the list below are of a few basic types: chemical names,=20
jargon terms of a particular specialised field, or nonce words made=20
up for the occasion, and a jocular one at that.

The words that are most often quoted as the longest are=20
antidisestablishmentarianism, floccinaucinihilipilification and=20
supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. The first of these is only 28=20
letters long, but has the distinction of being a word which actually=20
referred to something in the real, every-day world, and it is formed=20
along the usual lines of English word formation. A=20
disestablishmentarian was one who favoured the disestablishment of=20
the state church. One who was against it was, naturally, an=20
antidisestablishmentarianism. It seems to have occured to no one that=20
a possible adverb formed from this word would be=20
antidisestablishmentarianistically (34 letters). In any case the=20
plural of it would be 29 letters long, making it just as long as the=20
next word.

=46loccinaucinihilipilification (29 letters), is famous for being the=20
longest word in the Oxford English Dictionary, however, this is now=20
only true of the first edition, the second edition contains a few=20
even-longer words. The word itself was a joke word of the 18th and=20
19th century literati, stemming from an Eton grammar school Latin=20

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (34 letters) was made famous by=20
the Walt Disney movie 'Mary Poppins' (1964), though it has been=20
recorded earlier, going way back to the 1940s. Once again a joke=20
word, it first appeared in comedy songs, of which the humour was=20
supplied by the ridiculousness of the word. Nowadays it is used (also=20
in a shortened version supercalifragilistic) to mean 'amazingly=20
excellent', etc.

One sly answer to the question of what is the longest word would be=20
DDT, for its full title is dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (31=20
letters). This is longer than antidis... and flocci... and is more=20
likely to be considered a 'real' word than the slightly longer=20
supercali... Also, three letters are easier to remember than 31. It=20
is the longest in the Macquarie Dictionary.

Many of these long words were collected by Josefa Heifetz Byrne in=20
her wonderful dictionary Mrs Byrne's Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure=20
and Preposterous Words (1974).

The longest word to appear in standard English dictionaries is=20
pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis. This is the name of a=20
lung disease suffered by miners. It first appeared in Webster's New=20
International Dictionary and then alter in the second edition of the=20
Oxford English Dictionary.


Llanfairpwllgwyngyll - 20 (longest place name; Welsh)

humuhumunukunukuapuaa - 21

dihydroxyphenylalanine - 22

hexamethylenetetramine - 22

pseudomonocotyledonous - 22

honorificabilitudinity - 22

interdenominationalism - 22

gynotikolobomassophile - 22

bathysiderodromophobia - 22

dichlorodifluoromethane - 23

polytetrafluoroethylene - 23

quasihemidemisemiquaver - 23

inanthropomorphisability - 24

sphragidonychargokometes - 24 (Ancient Greek)

pseudorhombicuboctahedron - 25

honorificabilitudintatibus - 26 (longest in Shakespeare)

antidisestablishmentarianism - 28

tetramethyldiamidobenzhydrols - 29

floccinaucinihilipilification - 29 (longest in OED 1st ed.)

hippopotomonstrosesquipedalian - 30 (Mrs Byrne's Dict.)

dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane - 31 (longest in Macquarie Dict.)

praetertranssubstantionalistically - 34 (M McShane)

supercalifragilisticexpialidocious - 34

necropurogeohydrocheirocoscinomancy - 35 (Thomas Tomkis)

cholangiocholecystocholedochectomies - 36 (Mrs Byrne's Dict.)

hepaticocholangiocholecystenterostomies - 39 (Gould's Medical Dict.)

osteoarch'matosplanchnochondroneuromuelous- 42 (TL Peacock)

pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis - 45 (longest in OED=20
2nd ed. & Websters)

antipericatametaanaparcircumvolutiorectumgustpoops - 50 (Rabelais)

aequeosalinocalcalinoceraceoaluminosocupreovitriolic - 52 (Mrs=20
Byrne's Dict.; chem)

osseocarnisanguineoviscericartilagninonervomedullary - 52 (TL Peacock)

hounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk - 100 (James Joyce)

- 310 (not a real word - see appendix 2)

- 1,185 (chem. in Mrs Byrne's Dict. See appendix 2)

- 1,913 (chem. in Mrs Byrne's Dict. See appendix 2)


Appendix 1

The longest headwords from the Macquarie Dictionary second edition
dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane - 31
antidisestablishmentarianism - 28
antidisestablishmentarian - 25
dichlorodifluoromethane - 23
polytetrafluoroethylene - 23
dihydroxyphenylalanine - 22
hexamethylenetetramine - 22
overcommercialisation - 21
disestablishmentarian - 21
audiomagnetotellurics - 21
electroencephalograph - 21
overindustrialisation - 21
trichloronitromethane - 21
hydrodesulphurisation - 21 (1st ed. - respelled with 'f' in 2nd ed.)
uncharacteristically - 20
counterdemonstration - 20
electroencephalogram - 20
hydrodesulfurisation - 20 (2nd ed. spelling)
Llanfairpwllgwyngyll - 20 (Welsh place name)
magnetohydrodynamics - 20
microminiaturisation - 20
tetrahydrocannabinol - 20
tetraiodofluorescein - 20
antinationalisation - 19
self-dissatisfaction - 19
unconscientiousness - 19
unselfconsciousness - 19

Appendix 2
310 orniscop...
This 310 letter word that appears in the list is not really a word at=20
all. The word which appeared in Ripley The Omnibus Believe It Or Not,=20
(1931). With the note that:

``THE long word of 310 letters was used as a means of demonstrating:=20
1. The extent to which even the English language is capable of=20
forming enormous word monsters, and, 2. The whole field of=20
superstitious divinatory practices which are as old as humanity. The=20
literal translation of the long word is "A deluded human who=20
practices divination or forecasting by means of phenomena,=20
interpretation of acts or other manifestations related to the=20
following animate or inanimate objects and appearances: birds,=20
oracles, Bible, ghosts, crystal gazing, shadows, air appearances,=20
birth stars, meteors, winds, sacrificial appearances, entrails of=20
humans and fishes, fire, red-hot irons, altar smoke, mice, barley,=20
salt, lead, dice, arrows, hatchet balance, sieve, ring suspension,=20
random dots, precious stones, pebbles, pebble heaps, mirrors, ash=20
writing, dreams, palmistry, nail rays, finger rings, numbers, book=20
passages, name letterings, laughing manners, ventriloquism, circle=20
walking, wax, susceptibility to hidden springs, wine and shoulder=20
blades. Various monastic author of the Middle Ages writing on the=20
subject of human superstition have actually used such a long word=20
with a slightly varying sequence of items.''

It is clearly NOT a word of the 'Middle Ages' since it uses word=20
elements that do not date back that far, for example the '-bletono-'=20
refers to Bletonism a word which first appeared in the C19th. I=20
assume that Ripley merely concocted it himself. It is merely a list=20
of the first elements of a set words ending in -mancy (eg theomancy,=20
bibliomancy, etc.) all stuck together in one long line. Furthermore=20
it plainly is derived from the set of such words that appeared in=20
Roget's Thesaurus (under the head prediction 511), for the order of=20
the elements follows exactly non-alphabetical ordering of Roget's.=20
One assumes that the terminal element -naniac is a mistake.=20
Presumably it should be a derivative of -mancy (the usual=20
occupational agent termination being -mancer). Possibly -maniac was=20
meant, it being etymologically related.

1,185 acetyl...
1,913 methion...
These last two words are respectively, the chemical name of the=20
protein part of the tobacco mosaic virus (C785H1220N212O248S2), and=20
the chemical name for tryptophan synthetase A protein. These appear=20
in Mrs Byrne's Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure and Preposterous Words.

The Thomas Love Peacock words are from Headlong Hall 1816 [published=20
(along with Nightmare Abbey) in the 'World's Classics' series, OUP,=20
1929: xi. 90-1]

The Thomas Tomkis word is from his 1615 play Albumazar.

The Shakespearian word comes from Love's Labour's Lost V.i. Not a=20
coinage of Shakespeare's though. It is the ablative plural of the=20
Latin honorificabilitudintas, which is an extension of=20
honorificabilis meaning 'honorableness'. It first occurs in English=20
in 1599, used by Thomas Nashe.

The Mark McShane word is from his novel Untimely Ripped 1963.

The Rabelaisian word appears in Gargantua and Pantagruel occurring=20
there as a title of a book=20
"Antipericatametaanaparcircumvolutiorectumgustpoops of the Coprofied".

The Joycean concoction is, not surprisingly, from Finnegan's Wake. it=20
is meant to represent the thunder-clap that accompanied Adam & Eve in=20
the Fall. Other 100-letter long words appear in the book.