So what’s the longest word in the English language?
I like words. I love to do the New York Times Crossword puzzle which celebrates words, unusual usage and popular American culture. So I care about questions such as: what’s the longest word in the English language?
Well if you include technically strung out words and others artificially created words the list can be arbitrarily long. The chemical name of titin is apparently longer than 189,000 letters. There’s also supercalifragilisticexpialidocious from Mary Poppins which is found in dictionaries nowadays. (Shakespeare apparently used a made up word, Honorificabilitudinitatibus, the longest word that appears in his writings, which is also the longest word that alternates consonants and vowels. )
Then there is Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia. It means fear of humongously long words, so presumably if you suffer from it you do not use it.
My nominee for the longest nontechnical, everyday word in English is: antidisestablishmentarianism. It consists of 28 letters. Antidisestablishmentarians are people who are opposed to disestablishing the Church of England, which as you know was created by Henry VIII because the Catholic Church wouldn’t let him divorce. Now isn’t that a wonderful word?
It’s, of course, also a sesquipedalian – words that are well hung (or 18 inches long – that’s well hung isn’t it?)
Crossword puzzlers and puzzle makers who cater to them love words like these. Antidisestablishmentarianism is a sheer joy to them. So they must sneak it in as one of their puzzle entries, as the New York Times did last Friday. How do you fit in a 28-letter word into a 15×15 grid? You cheat – multiple letters per square to further challenge and delight your customers. Here’s the puzzle (which I for one thoroughly enjoyed doing):