Do you remember back when you were little, you would often come across some words in your science or English textbooks that would appear abnormally long? They might seem 'normal' now, but back then, we would sweat trying to get the hang of those words, and pronouncing them correctly used to be quite a challenge.
While you don't have to live through that struggle anymore, you would perhaps be surprised to know that language is full of some really long and equally interesting words that you may not have ever heard before. For instance, did you know that in the 1990s, the word “incomprehensibilities” set the record as the longest word “in common usage”? Today, we will look at some of the other interesting examples of the longest words of the world by category.
1. The longest word ever to appear in literature
Take a minute to read the word in the picture above. And don’t worry, we won’t even bother to ask you to pronounce it. This is the longest ever word to have appeared in literature. It comes from Aristophanes’ (a Greek writer of ancient Athens) play, Assemblywomen, which was published way back in 391 BC. The Greek word count for it is 171 letters but when translated to English, it comes to a whopping 183 letters! But what does it mean?
This unpronounceable word refers to a fictional fricassee (a dish of stewed or fried pieces of meat served in a thick white sauce) that, in the play, was made of rotted dogfish head, wrasse, wood pigeon, and the roasted head of a dabchick.
2. The longest word in an English dictionary
At a staggering 45 letters, this is the longest word you will find in most dictionaries today. Created in 1935 by the president of the American National Puzzlers’ League, the word refers to the full scientific name for a disease that causes inflammation in the lungs. It’s basically an exaggerated form of silicosis. However, many dictionaries refuse to add this tongue-twister of a word in their pages as they believe it’s a silly word made up to get the tag of the longest word in English.
3. The longest scientific name for an animal
Can you believe that this incredibly long word is actually used to describe a tiny insect? Yes, this is the scientific name of a soldier fly native to Thailand. Its genus name comes from Ancient Greek and clocks at 42 letters! Given that the lifespan of this fly is just about 5-8 days, we wonder if it would even survive by the time we learn how to properly pronounce its scientific name.
4. The longest non-coined monosyllabic English word
While the American English version of the word ‘Squirrelled’ carries only one “L”, in most major dictionaries the word appears with an extra L. At 11 letters, it is known as the longest coined monosyllabic English word and means "having hidden something of value away in a safe place".
5. The longest word to use all five vowels in order exactly once
There are many words that feature all five regular vowels (a, e, i, o, u) occurring only once in alphabetical order. However, at 11 letters, the longest one to use all five vowels in order exactly once is ‘abstemious’. It means "indulging only moderately in food and drink".
6. The longest words made entirely of either vowels or consonants
Vowels and consonants are basic elements to form any word. Without them, we can’t even imagine how a word can be formed. But did you know there are some words that appear in dictionaries made completely of either vowels or consonants? The longest words that contain no vowel are 'crwth' (a Celtic stringed instrument) and 'cwtch' (a hiding place or cubby hole).
Similarly, ‘Euouae’ is a vowel-laden word which is a medieval musical term that is used to recall the sequence of tones in a particular passage of the Gloria Patri (a short hymn of praise to God in various Christian liturgies). According to the Guinness Book of World Records, euouae is the longest word in the English language that consists of no consonants.
7. The longest non-technical English word
At 29 letters, this is the longest non-technical word in major dictionaries and is made up of a series of Latin words meaning "nothing". The word was first recorded to have been used in the 1740s and is defined as "the act of estimating something as worthless". Interestingly, this word hardly ever finds its way into common usage. Except in the lists of long words such as this one...
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