Many tout ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’ as the longest word in the English language. Some contend that this is wrong: the longest word is actually ‘pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis’. Their brains are clearly larger than those of the antidisestablishmentarians. Fewer, grinning smugly, might state that the longest word in English is actually 100,000 letters and describes an obscure amino acid. I think we can all agree our minds are horribly outmatched by those people.
But the wise man (that’s me) would wait for the last of them to file out, then smile assuredly at the camera. What they don’t know is: none of those are really words in the English language.
Perhaps some dictionaries include these words (though many do not), but I don’t trust “dictionaries”. If a dictionary contained the entry, “bridge, n. A structure off of which you must jump,” would you do it?
What I trust is the people’s vernacular, as judged by me. And my criteria are simple: the word must on occasion come up in a real sentence, spoken or written, which is not highly technical and which does not include the word just because of its unusual length.
Therefore I have compiled a list of actual very long words, which you could actually say out loud without anyone thinking “what a long word!” I have permitted pluralizations and other extensions where I deem them plausible; while “compartmentalizations” would arguably be grammatically correct, semantically it’s so contrived that I disallow it.1 Words that are sometimes hyphenated are permitted as long as the hyphen feels sufficiently unnecessary.
My process for gathering these words was to try to think of long ones and when I did I’d write them down. I tried going down a word list, but it drove me crazy so I stopped after I got to D. So I might be missing some, and if you message me I will add them (if I agree).2 Anyway here’s the list.
To the blog post I read as a child that claimed “strengthlessnesses” is the longest word in English with ‘e’ as its only vowel: yes bestie, I am always complaining about the strengthlessnesses I feel when I get tired at the gym! ↩
The message button is at the top of the page, if you click “send feedback”. Do include an example of someone actually writing or saying it in a normal sentence. ↩