a page from a dictionary

World’s Longest Word

In Blog by Rafael Morel

Have you ever stumbled upon long words in the English language and found yourself struggling to say them out loud? We are not necessarily referring to tongue twisters – some of which are designed to trip you up, linguistically – but rather ‘normal’ words that have a real meaning. You know, those especially tricky words that make you stop mid-sentence to catch your breath and try again.

The Oxford English Dictionary is a giant word tome with over 170 thousand words, and here at Lighthouse Translations, we are fascinated by all of them. Words are beautiful, rich, and colorful, designed to create a wide range of feelings, emotions, and descriptions.

The English language is able to produce words that are beautifully descriptive. But we have been curious lately about one particular type of word in the English language recently: the longest words!

Technically speaking, the longest word in English is “Methionylthreonylthreonylglutaminylarginyl…isoleucine”. That’s the scientific name for the largest protein in the human body, scientifically known as ‘titin,’ made up of over 190,000 letters. Yep, you heard that right! It’s so long that if you tried to put it in the English dictionary, it would need more than fifty pages just for the word alone.

But that’s just a little teaser. Through the rest of this blog post, we will take a more in-depth look at long words, including the longest published word, the longest English word, and the longest one-syllable word, along with a few unexpected curveballs like the longest Latin words.

The Longest Words in English

Beyond the quite staggering 189,819-letter chemical name of titin, there are other longest words worth noting.

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, for example, is 45 letters long and a medical term referenced in the Oxford English Dictionary. It is one of the longest English words that is commonly used and is officially published. Or at least, commonly used in scientific circles, that is. This ‘longest word in the world of science’ refers to a lung disease caused by inhaling fine particulate matter.

Then we have antidisestablishmentarianism. The entire word spans 28 letters and was born in 19th-century political circles, while floccinaucinihilipilification, at 29 letters, amusingly denotes the act of finding something to have little value, apparently.

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, which is one of the longest words in the beautiful English language describing (ironically) a ‘fear of long words,’ adds a whole new angle to the list of longest words and might just be our favorite on this list.

The English language also contains the longest word in the field of biology in pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism, which is a 30-letter medical term and one of many long technical words in medicine. In legal circles, hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia is a 30-letter term representing an irrational fear of the number 666. Go figure!

Long Words in Other Languages

Our adventures into the longest word in language continues further than English, as there is rich linguistic ingenuity present in various other cultures. In German, for example, the tendency to concatenate words results in terms such as Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz. This 63-letter word, related to beef labeling legislation (of all things), is arguably the longest word in the German language.

Then we have the ancient Sanskrit, a complicated language containing the word निरन्तरान्धकारित-दिगन्तर-कन्दलदमन्द-सुधारस-बिन्दु-सान्द्रतर-घनाघन-वृन्द-सन्देहकर-स्यन्दमान-मकरन्द-बिन्दु-बन्धुरतर-माकन्द-तरु-कुल-तल्प-कल्प-मृदुल-सिकता-जाल-जटिल-मूल-तल-मरुवक-मिलदलघु-लघु-लय-कलित-रमणीय-पानीय-शालिका-बालिका-करार-विन्द-गलन्तिका-गलदेला-लवङ्ग-पाटल-घनसार-कस्तूरिकातिसौरभ-मेदुर-लघुतर-मधुर-शीतलतर-सलिलधारा-निराकरिष्णु-तदीय-विमल-विलोचन-मयूख-रेखापसारित-पिपासायास-पथिक-लोकान्. 

Finnish, another language with the propensity to form extensive compound words, contributes to this longest-word article by giving us lentokonesuihkuturbiinimoottoriapumekaanikkoaliupseerioppilas, a term used in the military, apparently.

The Spanish language offers Esternocleidooccipitomastoideos, which is a medical term referring to certain neck muscles. This word is not particularly long by global standards, but this beautiful language is not known for having the longest word groups in its range.

In Welsh, we find the village name Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, which might be the longest word in Wales if we are counting place names. Interestingly, this small town has become a tourist attraction just because of its name, which is 58 letters long.

These global language examples cover diverse languages and speak to a universal fascination with the creation of extended words. However, while these words often serve practical purposes (such as in law or science), they also speak to cultural attitudes towards language and word formation.

What Are the Longest Latin Words?

As the beautiful language of ancient Rome, Latin is known for its concise yet expressive words. However, Latin also has its share of lengthy terms. One such word is honorificabilitudinitatibus, a 27-letter word meaning the state of being able to achieve honors. Another noteworthy term coming in at 29 letters is floccinaucinihilipilification, used for the act of ‘deeming something worthless’.

Another lengthy term in Latin is quattuordecillion, a 16-letter word representing a very large number (10 to the power of 45 in the American system). Then there’s pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism. This 30-letter medical term refers to a certain condition related to abnormal calcium levels. None of these words are used too much today, of course, although they are officially listed in the Latin dictionary.

Special Categories of Longest Words

Our longest word list isn’t limited to just scientific terms or place names – it’s only fair that we look at other, more unique categories, such as the longest one-syllable word, for example, and in English, the word screeched holds this title. Despite its shorter length, this nine-letter word is pronounced in a single syllable.

Another fascinating category of longest words is those without vowels and here, rhythms is a seven-letter word that relies on ‘y’ as a semi-vowel.

Moving onto palindromes – words that read the same forwards and backward – tattarrattat is an interesting word. First coined by James Joyce in ‘Ulysses,’ this 12-letter word mimics the sound of a knock on the door, demonstrating how this famous wordsmith was able to creatively capture everyday sounds.

Furthermore, the English language features words like trichotillomania: a medical term describing a condition where a person feels compelled to pull out their hair. Despite its specific application, the term’s length and structure make it worthy of inclusion in this compilation of long words.

Lastly, if we are to continue exploring the longest word in English, we might consider the longest word with only one vowel: strengths. This nine-letter word has significant meaning in a relatively compact form.

What Is the World’s Longest Word?

an image of the globe

It is actually quite difficult to find a firm answer to the longest word in English or the world, as there are subtle nuances at play here. For a start, it would be a stretch to classify some of the longer words as even a word, owing to the way in which we determine what is a word and what isn’t.

There are no rules here, basically, because most languages are agglutinative, which means you are allowed to create a word by joining other words on either side of them. In that sense, you could take 50 random words, stick them all together, and officially declare this hodge-podge of a word as a ‘new word.’

The safest approach is to use major dictionaries as a stick to gauge the question. If a word is in the dictionary, it is safe to conclude this as an official word. All dictionaries accept something like a highly specialized dictionary, that is.

So, at 45 letters long, the aforementioned pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis would officially take the crown as the longest word in the English language. As far as other languages go, the longest ‘official’ word that is listed in major dictionaries would be the Welsh town we also mentioned earlier, Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch.

Notable Mentions

Other equally monstrous words that we have not included in this list include:

  1. Electroencephalographically: Pertaining to electroencephalography, a method for monitoring and recording the electrical activity of the brain.
  2. Disproportionableness: The quality of being out of proportion in size, shape, or amount.
  3. Incomprehensibilities: The state or quality of being difficult to understand or comprehend.
  4. Internationalization: The process of designing products or services to be adaptable to different languages and regions.
  5. Unconstitutionalities: Situations or actions that are not in accordance with a constitutional law or set of laws.
  6. Otorhinolaryngological: Related to the medical study of the ear, nose, and throat.
  7. Psychophysicotherapeutics: A type of therapy that addresses both psychological and physical aspects of a condition.
  8. Hyperbetalipoproteinemia: A condition characterized by high levels of beta-lipoproteins in the blood.
  9. Phosphatidylethanolamine: A class of phospholipids found in biological membranes.
  10. Thyroparathyroidectomized: Pertaining to the surgical removal of the thyroid and parathyroid glands.

Wrap Up

So, there we have it – the longest words in the English language and, further afield, an interesting journey through the complicated world of linguistics, with words that are as complicated (and headache-inducing) as they are lengthy!

What’s obvious is that defining the ‘longest word’ can be a difficult area, as they are influenced by numerous factors, including the nuances of language and the criteria set by various dictionaries. While the official longest word in English, pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, romps home at a gigantic 45 letters, other languages offer their own giants, like the Welsh town name Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

Either way, we love this kind of thing here at Lighthouse Translations, as it shows how much creativity there really is with the different languages.

If these linguistic marvels intrigue you, remember Lighthouse Translations is your expert partner for cutting through the complexities of various languages. From business to personal needs, we translate a wide range of foreign languages into English with precision and care. Connect with us today to bridge your linguistic gaps!