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The longest word in English

Updated on August 14, 2016

What is more fascinating than language? I type few words then lo and behold! some random stranger may be fascinated, charmed or bored when exposed to my hopefully charming sentences. But fascinating doesn't begin to cover it once you see some scary anacondas out there. Because let's face it. From dinosaurs, skyscrapers and death stars, we are charmed by huge scary things.

An excerpt from the first surviving quarto (1598) of William Shakespeare's play Love's Labour's Lost. It shows the word honorificabilitudinitatibus as used by Costard.
An excerpt from the first surviving quarto (1598) of William Shakespeare's play Love's Labour's Lost. It shows the word honorificabilitudinitatibus as used by Costard.

Shakespeare perhaps ushered the proud tradition of "this is too huge and I can't pronounce it" with honorificabilitudinitatibus. It appeared in Love's Labour's Lost and apparently means "the state of being able to achieve honors." Its one of the longest nontechnical words ever published toped perhaps only by the Antidisestablishmentarianism. This 28 letters beauty refers to the political position that originated in 19th century Britain. The position opposed proposals at that time to remove the Anglican Church's status as the established church of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.Moving up the list we find Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious apperently meaning "Atoning for educability through delicate beauty." It was created for the Mary Poppins film and musical. I dont know if that counts, it seems like trying too much.

The real anacondas begin when we include the technical terms. Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis counts 45 letters and refers to a lung disease that is also known as silicosis. It is the longest word in the English language published in a dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary. But the longest word ever published is also the most thrilling of them all. It appeared in 1964 in Chemical Abstracts, a dictionary-like reference source for chemists. Hold your breath :


This monster runs 1,185 letters and it refers to The Tabacco Mosaic Virus. It happens to incidentally be the first virus ever discovered and to have its structure analyzed rigorously. It's amazing what language does to us.


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