Career & Education

Longest words in the English

Sunday, January 13, 2019

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• Sesquipedalianism

Let's start off with a word related to the business of “longest words”. Sesquipedalianism is the tendency to use long words. A sesquipedal, therefore, is a person who has sesquipedalian tendencies.

The word is traced to the ancient Roman poet Horace, who in a treatise on crafting poetry, wrote that in certain circumstances, one must avoid sesquipedalia verba, a Latin construct meaning “words a foot-and-a-half long.”

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis

This is the longest word in the medical and science fields (at 45 letters). It is the manufactured name of an occupational lung disease (more commonly known as silicosis) resulting from inhaling crystalline silica dust).

Some discount it from the record books, stating it is an “artificial” word that was reportedly coined for the purpose of being the longest word in an official dictionary, back in 1935. But, it's still in the dictionary today so we're including it!

• Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism

We include pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism, another medical/science-derived term, because this one is the longest non-coined word (not fabricated, but natural) to appear in major dictionaries. We define pseudo as “not actually but having the appearance of; pretended; false or spurious; sham”.

You might notice the appearance of pseudo twice: That's because this simulates the symptoms of pseudohypoparathyroidism, a disorder that acts as if the body is short on the parathyroid hormone when it's actually producing enough (hypo means below or under). So, there are two levels of faking it going on here.


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