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12 Exceptionally Long or Extremely


Special Words
542

Kevin Kampwirth

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filed under: etymology, grammar, Lists, Words

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Antidisestablishmentarianism, everyones favorite agglutinative, entered the pop-culture


lexicon on August 17, 1955, when Gloria Lockerman, a 12-year-old girl from Baltimore,
correctly spelled it on The $64,000 Question as millions of people watched from their living
rooms. At 28 letters, the word, which defines a 19th-century British political movement that
opposes proposals for the disestablishment of the Church of England, is still regarded as
the longest non-medical, non-coined, nontechnical word in the English language, yet it
keeps some robust company. Here are some examples of the longest words by category.

1. METHIONYLTHREONYLTHREONYGLUTAMINYLARGINYL
ISOLEUCINE
Note the ellipses. All told, the full chemical name for the human protein titin is 189,819
letters, and takes about three-and-a-half hours to pronounce. The problem with including
chemical names is that theres essentially no limit to how long they can be. For example,
naming a single strand of DNA, with its millions and millions of repeating base pairs, could
eventually tab out at well over a billion letters.

2. LOPADOTEMACHOSELACHOGALEOKRANIOLEIPSANPTERYGON
The longest word ever to appear in literature comes from Aristophanes play,
Assemblywomen, published in 391 BC. The Greek word tallies 171 letters, but translates to
183 in English. This mouthful refers to a fictional fricassee comprised of rotted dogfish
head, wrasse, wood pigeon, and the roasted head of a dabchick, among other culinary
morsels.

3. PNEUMONOULTRAMICROSCOPICSILICOVOLCANOCONIOSIS
At 45 letters, this is the longest word youll find in a major dictionary. An inflated version of

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7/5/2014

12 Exceptionally Long or Extremely Special Words | Mental Floss

silicosis, this is the full scientific name for a disease that causes inflammation in the lungs
owing to the inhalation of very fine silica dust. Despite its inclusion in the dictionary, its
generally considered superfluous, having been coined simply to claim the title of the longest
English word.

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4. PARASTRATIOSPHECOMYIA STRATIOSPHECOMYIOIDES
The longest accepted binomial construction, at 42 letters, is a species of soldier fly native to
Thailand. With a lifespan of five to eight days, its unlikely one has ever survived long enough
to hear it pronounced correctly.

5. PSEUDOPSEUDOHYPOPARATHYROIDISM

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This 30-letter thyroid disorder is the longest non-coined word to appear in a major
dictionary.

6. FLOCCINAUCINIHILIPILIFICATION
By virtue of having one more letter than antidisestablishmentarianism, this is the longest
non-technical English word. A mash up of five Latin roots, it refers to the act of describing
something as having little or no value. While it made the cut in the Oxford English Dictionary,
Merriam-Webster volumes refuse to recognize it, chalking up its existence to little more
than linguistic ephemera.

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7. SUBDERMATOGLYPHIC
At 17 characters, this is the longest accepted isogram, a word in which every letter is used
only once, and refers to the underlying dermal matrix that determines the pattern formed
by the whorls, arches, and ridges of our fingerprints.

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8. SQUIRRELLED
Though the more commonly accepted American English version carries only one L, both
Oxford and Merriam-Webster dictionaries recognize this alternate spelling and condone its
one syllable pronunciation (think world), making it the longest non-coined monosyllabic
English word at 11 letters.

9. ABSTENTIOUS
One who doesnt indulge in excesses, especially food and drink; at 11 letters this is the
longest word to use all five vowels in order exactly once.

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10. ROTAVATOR
A type of soil tiller, the longest non-coined palindromic word included in an English
dictionary tallies nine letters. Detartrated, 11 letters, appears in some chemical glossaries,
but is generally considered too arcane to qualify.

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11. AND 12. CWTCH, EUOUAE


The longest words to appear in a major dictionary comprised entirely of either vowels or
consonants. A Cwtch, or crwth, is from the Welsh word for a hiding place. Euouae, a
medieval musical term, is technically a mnemonic, but has been accepted as a word in
itself.
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