Ask Giz: What Is the Longest Word in the World?

Ask Giz: What Is the Longest Word in the World?

Welcome back to Ask Giz, our fortnightly article where we answer your burning questions from across Gizmodo’s topic areas, be it tech, space, science or health.

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Today’s question is a curiosity that many people have and is hotly debated among people as a fairly innocuous but interesting argument, and one that might help you out next time you’re playing Scrabble (on a gigantic board): What is the longest word in the world?

Let’s dive into it.

What is the longest word in the world?

The longest word in the Britannica Dictionary is Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. This means “a pneumoconiosis (a disease of the lungs caused by the habitual inhalation of irritants as mineral or metallic particles) caused by inhalation of very fine silicate or quartz dust”.

But things aren’t so simple and this isn’t really the longest word in the world (though it is often identified as the longest word, as it is commonly the longest word in the dictionary). Beyond Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, there is a longer English word that is written in a compounded form (otherwise it takes three hours to pronounce). That’s “Methionylthreonylthreonylglutaminylarginyl…isoleucine”, the chemical name for ‘Titin’, the largest known protein.

Other long words people often mistake as the longest word are antidisestablishmentarianism (opposition to the disestablishment of the Church of England), supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (a made-up word from Mary Poppins) and Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism (an inherited condition that causes short stature, round face, and short hand bones).

But we’re talking about words in the English language here, and not the longest words in the world. As explained by Alphatrad, here are some of the longest words in other languages:

  • निरन्तरान्धकारित-दिगन्तर-कन्दलदमन्द-सुधारस-बिन्दु-सान्द्रतर-घनाघन-वृन्द-सन्देहकर-स्यन्दमान-मकरन्द-बिन्दु-बन्धुरतर-माकन्द-तरु-कुल-तल्प-कल्प-मृदुल-सिकता-जाल-जटिल-मूल-तल-मरुवक-मिलदलघु-लघु-लय-कलित-रमणीय-पानीय-शालिका-बालिका-करार-विन्द-गलन्तिका-गलदेला-लवङ्ग-पाटल-घनसार-कस्तूरिकातिसौरभ-मेदुर-लघुतर-मधुर-शीतलतर-सलिलधारा-तदीय-विमल-विलोचन-मयूख-रेखापसारित-पिपासायास-पथिक-लोकान्: A compound word made up of Sanskrit characters, currently holding the Guiness World Record for the “longest word”
  • Tweedehandsemotorverkoopsmannevakbondstakingsvergaderingsameroeperstoespra-akskrywerspersverklaringuitreikingsmediakonferensieaankondiging: An Afrikaans word meaning “A press conference on a speech by a trade union official at a used car dealership about a strike”
  • Vaðlaheiðarvegavinnuverkfærageymsluskúraútidyralyklakippuhringur: An Icelandic word that translates to “A ring on a key ring for the outer door of the tool shed used by road maintenance workers on Vaðlaheiði hill”

If by the end of this you’ve developed a case of Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (the fear of long words), we don’t blame you.

Just know that the ‘longest word’ is dependent on context. The ‘longest word in the world’ changes depending on the language and the dictionaries that identify it as such. In the case of the three-hour-long word from earlier, the ‘longest word’ may also be subject to compounding.

Words words words

That’s about it on the longest word, at the very least, here is some ammo if you ever want to impress your friends with how big your brain is and how deep your knowledge is of… Words.

If you’d like to submit a question, we’d love to answer it.

Ask Giz is a fortnightly series where we answer your questions, be it tech, science, gadget, health or gaming related. This is a reader-involved series where we rely on Gizmodo Australia’s audience to submit questions. If you have a question for Giz, you can submit it here. Or check out the answer to our last Ask Giz: What To Do if Your Wi-Fi Hotspot Is Not Working

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