Because English has borrowed or absorbed words from other languages it is particularly rich. While most people think that the German language steals the show when it comes to long words, many of which are compound words, English has its own nice little collection as well.
What is the Longest Known Word in English?
Well, this is hotly contested by sesquipedalians! Eh? What is a sesquipedalian? Sesquipedalianism is the practice of using long words, so a sesquipedalian is a person who loves using long words. To be honest, in common speech, particularly long words tend to be frowned upon. Those who use them in conversation when there are other just as satisfactory shorter words to use are often regarded as a bit snooty, or just plain weird.
So, what is the longest known word in English? Well, some of the longest words are actually scientific or technical constructs. The chemical word for the protein titin is actually 189,819 letters long. You won’t find it in any English dictionary simply because it would take about 55 pages to fit it in! A man who obviously had nothing better to do actually made a YouTube video of saying this word out in full. If takes 3 hours to listen to it if you’ve nothing better to do yourself.
The Theoretical Longest Word of all that has Never been Spoken
There are theoretically a lot of other very long chemical words that could be constructed. The full name of a DNA strand could include over a billion letters!
The Longest Fictional Word
The longest word that many people recognise is the one that was especially created for the film “Mary Poppins.” “Supercalifrajilisticexpialidocious,” according to Julie Andrews, meant “something you might say when you have nothing else to say.”
The Longest Word in an English Dictionary
If that word doesn’t count because it was made up, then the fact is that there are people who love creating long words just for the sake of it. The longest word that regularly turns up in most English dictionaries is also suspected of being a construct. It is ‘pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.’ This is a disease of the lung caused by breathing in fine silica dust from a volcano. Obviously this is not something that is too common, especially in England where volcanos are fortunately quite rare.
Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism is another medical term that gets into the top ten. It’s a condition which is similar to, but not directly related to abnormally high blood levels of calcium and phosphorous.
If you think that reading about very long words in English that you will never ever use is valueless, then you have come across an example of floccinaucinihilipilification. This word means the practice of estimating something as having no value. Actually, talking about something that has no value, floccinaucinihilipilification is a good example as no-one ever uses it!
Aren’t There any Very Long Words that anyone Actually Uses?
Not really. Unless of course you are a sesquipedalian!
That doesn’t mean that long words don’t have their own place in language. The word “antidisestablishmentarianism,” for example, was used in the past in Britain and other English speaking nations when religion had more influence over society than it does today. It means the opposition to anything a government does to try and reduce its support for the main religion of that country. For example, the Irish government these days is far less tied to the Catholic Church than it was in the past. Diehard Catholics who resent this may put up a show of antidisestablishentarianism.
If you think that all these long words are pretty hard to remember or understand you could call the whole lot of them “incomprehensibilities.” Actually, this word gained a record thirty years ago for being the longest word “in recognized use”.
Longest Words with all Vowels or Consonants
Some shorter words actually get a mention if there is something special about them from a lexical point of view. Some words, for example, are notable because they have the most number of vowels on any one word, or the most number of consonants.
The word “euouae” may not seem particularly long, but it is remarkable because it is made up completely of vowels. It is a musical term, apparently. The English word with the greatest number of consonants is “strengths.” There is only one vowel in it. Tsktsk is the longest word with only consonants. You don’t know what it means? TskTsk!
Just to round it off, the word” subdermatoglyphic” is the longest word that never repeats a single letter.
Now go off and practice being a sesquipedalian!