April 1, 1996

Hippopotomonstrosesquipedalians

Hippopotomonstrosesquipedalians are really, really, REALLY long words. I had a penchant for learning these things when I was a kid. I still know many of these by heart. (My secret? Break them up into syllables first.) Here are some classics.


Aequeosalinocalcalinosetaceoaluminosocupreovitriolic

(52 letters; a word coined by 16th century medical writer Edward Strother to describe the spa waters at Bath.

Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg

(45 letters long; America's longest place, it refers to a lake near Webster, Massachusetts. Translation: "You fish on the left side, I'll fish on the right side, no one fishes in the middle."

cholangiocholecystocholedochectomy

(34 letters; a cutting out of the hepatic duct, common bile duct, and gall bladder. Yummy.)

floccinaucinihilipilification

(29 letters, the categorizing of something as worthless trivia.)

gynotikolobomassophile

(22 letters; one who likes to nibble on a woman's earlobe)

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

(58 letters long; the place in Gwynedd, North Wales, famed for its railway ticket lengthsduh! Translation: "St. Mary's Church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the rapid whirlpool of Llantysilio of the Red Cave."

lopadotemachoselachogaleokranioleipsanodrimhypotrimmatosilphioparaomelitokatakechymenokichlepikossyphophattoperisteralektryonoptekephalliokigklopelei olagoiosiraiobaphetraganopterygon

(189 letters; a ghoulash composed of all the leftovers from the meals of the leftovers from the meals of the last two weeksfrom Aristophanes' The Ecclesiaszusae)

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis

(45 letters long; refers to a lung disease resulting from breathing very fine dust).

Pseudoantidisestablishmentarianism

(34 letters; refers to "false opposition to the withdrawal of state support from a Church.")

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

(34 letters; easily the most obscure word on this page, it means "atoning for extreme and delicate beauty while highly educable")


Sources: Josefa Heifetz Byrne, Mrs. Byrne's Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words. Secaucus, NJ: University Books, 1974;

Russel Ash, The Top 10 of Everything. London: Dorling Kindersley, 1994.

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