Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Longest Word In English

There's some debate about the longest word in English. We're weighing up the competitors and putting an end to this once and for all!

Honorificabilitudinitatibus (27 letters)

This is the longest word published in Shakespeare. It's from Latin and means "the state of being able to achieve honours". It features in Love's Labour's Lost just once.

We think it shouldn't be considered as a candidate, given that it probably is uttered only infrequently by scholars, and likely only features in the work itself and in articles and publications referring to it as a candidate for longest word. Nice try... it's not even English!

Antidisestablishmentarianism (28 letters)

Probably the most commonly mentioned word when people think of the longest word in English. It can be classed as non-coined which always makes for a good candidate. For those who are of the ideology of being against the movement of disestablishment. The only undisputed word in our list.

Floccinaucinihilipilification (29 letters)

Always comes after antidisestablishmentarianism in a discussion. Who says it? Your friend who thinks they're really clever. Unfortunately smart-arse isn't a candidate here. What does it mean? It's a habit of describing something as useless, worthless or having no value.

Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism (30 letters)

It's 30 letters long so it beats our previous candidates in length. However, it was first mentioned as pseudo-pseudohypoparathyroidism in 1952, which wouldn't make it longer than our previous examples since it was hyphenated. If you know what pseudohypoparathyroidism is, you will know that pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism is similar... hence pseudo... but pseudopseudo? Give us a break!

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (34 letters)

Our favourite British nanny coined this one and all you really need is the song. If you don't know the song we'd advise looking it up. An interesting film linguistically owing in part to Dick Van Dyke's atrocious "British" accent and its ability to warp British stereotypes across the pond for over half a century.

The umbrella, the only way to travel around London.
Especially during rush hour.

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (45 letters)

This is the longest word found in a dictionary, although it was coined in order to be the longest word, which we think is cheating. It's supposed to mean "'a lung disease caused by the inhalation of very fine silica dust, causing inflammation in the lungs" which is a little too far-fetched and specific for us to consider it to be a competitor for the crown.

Lopad...pterygon (183 letters)

One for the foodies out there. The full word is from Greek and refers to a dish, albeit a fictional dish. It holds the Guinness World Record for the longest word to appear in literature which gives it more credentials than most of our list. However, we feel it not being English or real should take it out of the running altogether.


Methionyl...isoleucine (189,819 letters)

If you're following the nomenclature of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), and then try to name the protein commonly known as Titin (because it's massive) you'll end up with this word. Most will disregard this as a contender for longest word as it's definitely technical and more of a rule or formula than an actual word.

This is Titin. It's definitely the size that counts.

Of course, after everything is said and done, we all know what the longest word in English is:

Smiles (>1 mile)

Common usage, published frequently, non-technical, unchallenged. I think we have a winner. If you're confused it's because there's a mile between each s.

Congratulations "smiles"!