What is the Longest Word?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

There is great dispute about the longest word in the world, as well as in the English language. Many words are great candidates, but most of them are not in common use. It used to be said that antidisestablishmentarianism was the longest word in English, but it has been replaced by other words like pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis, which has 45 letters and describes a lung disease.

Novelist James Joyce invented a 101-letter word.
Novelist James Joyce invented a 101-letter word.

The word is unlikely to fall into common use, and there have been other words longer, including the 52-letter word osseocarnisanguineoviscericartilaginonervomedullary, used in Thomas Love Peacock’s novel Headlong Hall. Not surprisingly, this lengthy word, which describes various components of the body, did not become the latest slang term after the 1816 novel was published.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the longest word is floccinaucinihilipilification.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the longest word is floccinaucinihilipilification.

Writers have a habit of making up very long words, and one of the longest word examples is a Greek term created by the comic playwright Aristophanes. The term describes a dish of food in the play The Assemblywomen and is loosely transliterated as the following: Lopado­te­macho­se ­lacho­galeo­krani o­leipsano­drimhypo­ trimmato­silphio­parao ­melito­katakechymeno­ kichlepikossypho­phatto­ peristeralektryonop­tekeph allio­kigklopeleiol­ag oiosiraio­baphetraganop­ terygon. Other long terms include a 101-letter word created by James Joyce.

Nigel Tomm created the most striking of these words. It appears in his tenth volume of the The Blah Story published in 2008. The word contains over two million letters, and again is not likely one to be repeated, or perhaps even read aloud. It currently ranks as the longest word in the world, though it is not listed in dictionaries.

Other long words include the New Zealand name for a hill, Taumatawha-katangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwenuakitanatahu. Generally, aside from a few place names and the creations of writers, the largest words are generated from scientific names. The chemical name for the largest protein contains over 180,000 letters.

One of the longest words in English that deserves honorable mention is floccinaucinihilipilification, which is listed in the Oxford English Dictionary and has been in use since the 1700s. It’s the act of judging something as worthless. It does occasionally see use by the public, though this is rare.

Some of the longest word types involve constructions with either a list of Latin or Greek words, as in pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis, and a variety of prefixes or suffixes. Prefixes may cancel each other out in the case of words like antidisestablishmentarianism, which loosely translates as against the opposition to establishmentarianism.

Other words simply create a vast description of something by chaining numerous words together. While at present the longest word in the world is in English this is always subject to change. It’s likely that someone will view Nigel Tomm’s longest word as a challenge and compose one of three million letters or longer to earn a new a record.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


There is a word:'Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia' Which has 36 letters and means a fear of long words (funny that).


pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is a proper noun. it's a name given to a disease. any other name could have been given to it, even a longer name, so, in my opinion we should not accept any proper noun as the longest word in english.


there's a word over 180,000 letters.


is there a word over 100 letters?


thanks a lot. i didn't know there was a 52 letter word.

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