If your elementary school teachers told you that antidisestablish-mentarianism was the longest word in the dictionary, they lied.
In fact, most dictionaries today don’t include antidisestablish-mentarianism. It’s rarely used anymore, according to Merriam-Webster’s FAQs page. (Apparently, a lot of people wonder about this.)
Antidisestablishmentarianism was a political position during the Reformation. King Henry VIII wanted to divorce his wife, so he split from Roman Catholicism. Those against him were “anti” the “disestablishment” of the church and thus, didn’t approve of the budding Anglican Church, later known as the Church of England.
It’s an interesting addition to your vocabulary and historical knowledge. But the word only contains 28 letters — not the longest one in the English language.
We compiled a short list of longer words below (excluding chemical compounds, which can run up to 189,819 letters.)
1.Aequeosalinocalcalinoceraceoaluminosocupreovitriolic: noun, a word coined by Dr. Edward Strother to describe the spa waters in Bath, England.
At 52 letters, this is the longest English word ever created that appears outside literature. Many scholars in the 17th Century (Dr. Strother’s time) spoke Latin fluently. Therefore, much of the word stems from the dead romance language. Let’s break it down.
“Aequo” means equal in Latin.
“Salino” comes from “salinus,” the Latin word for “containing salt.”
“Calcalino,” “aluminoso,” and “cupreo” are all derivative words of their corresponding minerals: calcium, aluminium, and copper, respectively. Waters at the bathhouse must have contained all three.
“Cera” (embedded within “caraceo”) means “wax” in Latin.
Finally, “vitriolic” functions as an adjective, meaning “resembling vitriol.” And vitriol is a sulfate of any of various metals (as copper, iron, or zinc).
These waters were a solution of equal parts salt, calcium, aluminium, copper, and other metallic sulfates that felt sort of waxy.
2. Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis: noun, a pneumoconiosis caused by inhalation of very fine silicate or quartz dust.
Pneumoconiosis: noun, a disease of the lungs caused by the habitual inhalation of irritants (as mineral or metallic particles) — also called miner’s asthma, miner’s consumption.
Medical terminology does tend to read lengthy, but at 45 letters, this disease is the longest.
The medical prefix “pneumo” comes from the Latin word “pneuma” meaning wind, air, or breath.
“Ultra” is another prefix borrowed from Latin which means “to the furthest degree possible.”
“Silica” (changed to silico for phonological purposes) is the dioxide form of silicone, usually occurring as quartz sand.
The suffix “osis” refers to an abnormal or diseased condition.
And we all know what “microscopic” and “volcano” mean. (Silica is often found in volcanic rocks.)
3. Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia: noun, fear of long words.
This word has four basic components changed to fit together phonologically: hippopotamus, monstrous, sesquipedalian, and phobia.
Many theorize “hippopoto” was added as an etymological joke to make the word a little longer — and thereby making people who suffer from the syndrome even more terrified. “Sesquipedalian” is an adjective that means having many syllables.
String all these together, at 36 letters, and hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia means fear of monstrously multisyllabic words.
4. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: adjective, extraordinarily good; wonderful.
Made famous by the song of the same title in the children’s movie “Mary Poppins,” this word somehow ended up in the Oxford Dictionary.
Robert and Richard Sherman co-wrote the song for a duet with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, famous songbirds of the ’60s. It’s no wonder the 34-letter word stuck.
5. Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism: noun, a relatively mild form of pseudohypoparathyroidism that is characterised by normal levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood.
For further understanding, pseudohypoparathyroidism:
noun, a usually inherited disorder that clinically resembles hypoparathyroidism but results from the body’s inability to respond normally to parathyroid hormone rather than from a deficiency of the hormone itself.
hypoparathyroidism: noun, deficiency of parathyroid hormone in the body.
The Latin prefix “pseudo” means false, deceptive, or inauthentic. Two “pseudos” amplifies the meaning.
The prefix “hypo” means under, below, or lower, and “para,” in this case, means beyond or past.
Suffererers of this syndrome, which is made up of 30 letters, have a twice false, beyond lower (than normal), thyroid issue.
6. Floccinaucinihilipilification: noun,
the estimation of something as valueless (encountered mainly as an example of one of the longest words in the English language)
Back in the 18th Century, Eton College created a grammar book which contained a section listing all the words in Latin that meant “of little or no value” according to World Wide Words. As a joke, someone stuck them all together and added “ification,” meaning the act of doing something, to make a 29-letter noun.
Some of these words don’t appear in any dictionary, we know. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t words. Words that appear in the dictionary must meet three criteria: widespread use, sustained use, and meaningful use, according to a lexicographer from Merriam Webster.
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