The longest word in any of the major English languagedictionaries is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, a word that refers to a lung disease contracted from the inhalation of very fine silica particles, specifically from a volcano; medically, it is the same as silicosis. The word was deliberately coined to be the longest word in English, and has since been used in a close approximation of its originally intended meaning, lending at least some degree of validity to its claim.
The longest non-technical word in major dictionaries is floccinaucinihilipilification at 29 letters. Consisting of a series of Latin words meaning "nothing" and defined as "the act of estimating something as worthless"; its usage has been recorded as far back as 1741.
Ross Eckler has noted that most of the longest English words are not likely to occur in general text, meaning non-technical present-day text seen by casual readers, in which the author did not specifically intend to use an unusually long word. According to Eckler, the longest words likely to be encountered in general text are deinstitutionalization and counterrevolutionaries, with 22 letters each.
A computer study of over a million samples of normal English prose found that the longest word one is likely to encounter on an everyday basis is uncharacteristically, at 20 letters.
James Joyce made up nine 100-letter words plus one 101-letter word in his novel Finnegans Wake, the most famous of which is Bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk. Appearing on the first page, it allegedly represents the symbolic thunderclap associated with the fall of Adam and Eve. As it appears nowhere else except in reference to this passage, it is generally not accepted as a real word. Sylvia Plath made mention of it in her semi-autobiographical novel The Bell Jar, when the protagonist was reading Finnegans Wake.
The English language permits the legitimate extension of existing words to serve new purposes by the addition of prefixes and suffixes. This is sometimes referred to as agglutinative construction. This process can create arbitrarily long words: for example, the prefixes pseudo (false, spurious) and anti (against, opposed to) can be added as many times as desired. A word like anti-aircraft (pertaining to the defense against aircraft) is easily extended to anti-anti-aircraft (pertaining to counteracting the defense against aircraft, a legitimate concept) and can from there be prefixed with an endless stream of "anti-"s, each time creating a new level of counteraction. More familiarly, the addition of numerous "great"s to a relative, e.g. great-great-great-grandfather, can produce words of arbitrary length.
A number of scientific naming schemes can be used to generate arbitrarily long words.
The IUPAC nomenclature for organic chemical compounds is open-ended, giving rise to the 189,819-letter chemical name Methionylthreonylthreonyl...isoleucine for the protein also known as titin, which is involved in striated muscle formation. In nature, DNA molecules can be much bigger than protein molecules and therefore potentially be referred to with much longer chemical names. For example, the wheat chromosome 3B contains almost 1 billion base pairs, so the sequence of one of its strands, if written out in full like Adenilyladenilylguanilylcystidylthymidyl..., would be about 8 billion letters long. The longest published word, Acetylseryltyrosylseryliso...serine, referring to the coat protein of a certain strain of tobacco mosaic virus, was 1,185-letters long, and appeared in the American Chemical Society's Chemical Abstracts Service in 1964 and 1966. In 1965, the Chemical Abstracts Service overhauled its naming system and started discouraging excessively long names.
John Horton Conway and Landon Curt Noll developed an open-ended system for naming powers of 10, in which one sexmilliaquingentsexagintillion, coming from the Latin name for 6560, is the name for 103(6560+1) = 1019683. Under the long number scale, it would be 106(6560) = 1039360.
Parastratiosphecomyia stratiosphecomyioides is the longest accepted binomial name. It's a species of soldier fly
Aequeosalinocalcalinoceraceoaluminosocupreovitriolic, at 52 letters, describing the spa waters at Bath, England, is attributed to Dr. Edward Strother (1675–1737). The word is composed of the following elements:
The 58-letter name Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is the name of a town on Anglesey, an island of Wales. In terms of the traditional Welsh alphabet, the name is only 51 letters long, as certain digraphs in Welsh are considered as single letters, for instance ll, ng and ch. It is generally agreed, however, that this invented name, adopted in the mid-19th century, was contrived solely to be the longest name of any town in Britain. The official name of the place is Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, commonly abbreviated to Llanfairpwll or Llanfair PG.
From about 1975 to 1985, the recordholder was Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor William Xerxes Yancy Zeus Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorffvoralternwarengewissenhaftschaferswessenschafewarenwohlgepflegeundsorgfaltigkeitbeschutzenvonangreifendurchihrraubgierigfeindewelchevoralternzwolftausendjahresvorandieerscheinenwanderersteerdemenschderraumschiffgebrauchlichtalsseinursprungvonkraftgestartseinlangefahrthinzwischensternartigraumaufdersuchenachdiesternwelchegehabtbewohnbarplanetenkreisedrehensichundwohinderneurassevonverstandigmenschlichkeitkonntefortplanzenundsicherfreuenanlebenslanglichfreudeundruhemitnichteinfurchtvorangreifenvonandererintelligentgeschopfsvonhinzwischensternartigraum, Senior (746 letters), also known as Wolfe+585, Senior.
After 1985 Guinness briefly awarded the record to a newborn girl with a longer name. The category was removed shortly afterward.
Long birth names are often coined in protest of naming laws or for other personal reasons.
The naming law in Sweden was challenged by parents Lasse Diding and Elisabeth Hallin, who proposed the given name "Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116" for their child (pronounced [ˈalbɪn], 43 characters), which was rejected by a district court in Halmstad, southern Sweden.
Words with certain characteristics of notable length
Strengths is the longest word in the English language containing only one vowel.
Euouae, a medieval musical term, is the longest English word consisting only of vowels, and the word with the most consecutive vowels. However, the "word" itself is simply a mnemonic consisting of the vowels to be sung in the phrase "seculorum Amen" at the end of the lesser doxology. (Although u was often used interchangeably with v, and the variant "Evovae" is occasionally used, the v in these cases would still be a vowel.)
The longest word whose letters are in alphabetical order is the eight-letter Aegilops, a grass genus. However, this is arguably both Latin and a proper noun. There are several six-letter English words with their letters in alphabetical order, including abhors, almost, begins, biopsy, chimps and chintz.
The longest words recorded in OED with each vowel only once, and in order, are abstemiously, affectiously, and tragediously (OED). Fracedinously and gravedinously (constructed from adjectives in OED) have thirteen letters; Gadspreciously, constructed from Gadsprecious (in OED), has fourteen letters. Facetiously is among the few other words directly attested in OED with single occurrences of all five vowels and the semivowely.
The longest single palindromic word in English is rotavator, another name for a rotary tiller for breaking and aerating soil.
The longest words typable with only the left hand using conventional hand placement on a QWERTY keyboard are tesseradecades, aftercataracts, and the more common but sometimes hyphenated sweaterdresses. Using the right hand alone, the longest word that can be typed is johnny-jump-up, or, excluding hyphens, monimolimnion and phyllophyllin.
The longest English word typable using only the top row of letters has 11 letters: rupturewort. Similar words with 10 letters include: pepperwort, perpetuity, proprietor, requietory, repertoire, tripertite, pourriture and typewriter. The word teetertotter (used in North American English) is longer at 12 letters, although it is usually spelled with a hyphen.
The longest using only the middle row is shakalshas (10 letters). Nine-letter words include flagfalls, galahads and alfalfas.
Since the bottom row contains no vowels, no standard words can be formed. Exceptions might include Zzz, seen in some dictionaries to denote sleep, or m', the clitic form of my.
The longest words typable by alternating left and right hands are antiskepticism and leucocytozoans respectively.
On a Dvorak keyboard, the longest "left-handed" words are epopoeia, jipijapa, peekapoo, and quiaquia. Other such long words are papaya, Kikuyu, opaque, and upkeep. Kikuyu is typed entirely with the index finger, and so the longest one-fingered word on the Dvorak keyboard. There are no vowels on the right-hand side, and so the longest "right-handed" word is crwth.
Smiles, according to an old riddle, may be considered the longest word in English, as there is a mile between the first and last letter. A retort asserts that beleaguered is longer still, since it contains a league. The riddle and both jocular answers date from the 19th century.
In the old time radio retrospective, Golden Radio, comedian Jack Benny jokes that "the longest word in the English language is the one that follows, 'Now, here's a word from our sponsor.'"
^ abCoined around 1935 to be the longest word; press reports on puzzle league members legitimized it somewhat. First appeared in the MWNID supplement, 1939. Today OED and several others list it, but citations are almost always as "longest word". More detail at pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.
^In recent times its usage has been recorded in the proceedings of the United States Senate by Senator Robert Byrd Discussion between Sen. Moynihan and Sen. Byrd "Mr. President, may I say to the distinguished Senator from New York, I used that word on the Senate floor myself 2 or 3 years ago. I cannot remember just when or what the occasion was, but I used it on that occasion to indicate that whatever it was I was discussing it was something like a mere trifle or nothing really being of moment." Congressional Record June 17, 1991, p. S7887, and at the White House by Bill Clinton's press secretary Mike McCurry, albeit sarcastically. December 6, 1995, White House Press Briefing in discussing Congressional Budget Office estimates and assumptions: "But if you – as a practical matter of estimating the economy, the difference is not great. There's a little bit of floccinaucinihilipilification going on here."
^Eckler, R. Making the Alphabet Dance, p 252, 1996.