11 definitions for lengthy words

This week, I set out to answer a simple question: What are the longest words in the English language?

That led to a not-so-simple question: What do the longest words in the English language mean?

Because many of these words are technical and have little practical use, their definitions do not appear in standard dictionaries. After a little digging, though, I now know what “pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism” means—and so can you.

Below is a list of the longest words in English, along with their definitions. If you can pronounce any of these, treat yourself to a new pair of shoes. If you can work these into a casual conversation, take the rest of the day off.

(Words and definitions from Oxford Dictionaries, Wordnik, Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary and Wikipedia.)

1. Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (45 letters, though this word was created to be the longest word in English and some dictionaries do not recognize it): A lung disease caused by inhaling sand, ash or quartz; also known as silicosis.

Example: No one can agree on who coined the term “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis.”

2. Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism
(30 letters): An inherited condition that affects how bones are formed. The disease causes short stature, short hand bones and a round face.

Example: Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism is usually inherited from the father.

3. Floccinaucinihilipilification
(29 letters): Estimating something as valueless.

Example: “Floccinaucinihilipilification” is almost never used, except as an example of a long word.

4. Antidisestablishmentarianism
(28 letters, though it is not found in some dictionaries): Opposition to withdrawing government support of a church or religion.

Example: I disagree with your antidisestablishmentarianist views.

5. Hepaticocholangiogastrostomy
(28 letters): To clear a blockage from the hepatic duct to ensure it functions properly.

Example: The hepaticocholangiogastrostomy can be performed laparoscopically or using an open procedure.

6. Spectrophotofluorometrically
(28 letters): Describing the use of a spectrophotofluorometer, an instrument that measures the amount of light given off in a color band to trace and measure tiny components of a sample of blood, body tissue or other substance.

Example: The pathologist recommended that the specimen be examined spectrophotofluorometrically.

7. Psychoneuroendocrinological
(27 letters): A field of research that combines psychology, endocrinology and neuroscience to study how hormone fluctuations affect human behavior.

Example: There is a psychoneuroendocrinology conference at our hotel this weekend.

8. Pneumoencephalographically
(26 letters): A radiological technique for examining the brain. Air is injected into the brain to sharpen the outlines of various brain structures. As the air is introduced, cerebrospinal fluid is removed.

Example: Pneumoencephalography has been replaced by safer brain-scanning techniques such as PET, CT and MRI.

9. Thyroparathyroidectomized
(25 letters): Having undergone surgical removal of the thyroid and parathyroid gland.

Example: Because of the damage caused by the stroke, the neurosurgeon recommended that the patient be thyroparathyroidectomized.

10. Otorhinolaryngological
(22 letters): Related to the medical practice that specializes in disorders of the ear, nose, and throat.

Example: I’m having an otorhinolaryngological crisis.

11. Sequispedalian
(at 14 letters, it’s not one of the longest, but it is one of the most ironic words): A long word or a person who uses long words; a foot and a half long.

Example: Don’t involve me in your sequispedalian schemes.

PR Daily readers, what words would you add to the list?


This post was first published on Ragan Communication’s PR Daily.


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