What’s the longest word you know? A lengthy German word, or a Welsh name? One of those pesky long word combinations for numbers in French? Lots of people think “antidisestablishmentarianism” is the longest English word. Learning pronunciation can be hard, and when you trip up, it can leave you thinking, “This feels like the longest word in the world!” But just you wait until you see what we’ve got in store. We went on a hunt for the longest word in the world, and I’m excited to share what we found! Be warned, if you suffer from hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, the fear of long words, you may want to look away now!
We’re going to get into figuring out the longest word in history in a minute. But first, maybe you’d like to know how to pronounce hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (that’s 36 letters, but who’s counting?).
Click play to listen, if you dare:
Before we start looking for the longest word, we have to put in a word… about words! There are some disputes about what counts as the longest word. Yes, you read that right. People actually argue about this stuff! Merriam-Webster has a very strict set of rules for what gets into their dictionary. And they all depend on usage. For a word to make the cut, it has to meet three criteria:
- It has to be commonly used
- It has to have sustained usage (meaning that it’s been around and in use longer than a TikTok trend)
- And it must be meaningful
So if you’re thinking of breaking the world record by making up a random word, sorry! It won’t count. But why do these rules even matter? Surely a word is a word? Or not! Let’s take a look.
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If you ask an English speaker, they will probably say that the longest word they know is “antidisestablishmentarianism.” You have to hand it to them, that’s a mouthful! It means opposition to the disestablishment of the Church of England, and it was used (a little bit) when Henry VIII split from the Catholic Church in the 19th century. But Merriam-Webster hates this word. They hate it so much, they’ve made a statement about why it’s not in any of their dictionaries. There’s no real record of it ever being used meaningfully, so they refuse to count it as a word. So, unfortunately, what most people say is the longest word in the English language isn’t a word at all.
So, what is the longest word in the dictionary? According to Merriam-Webster, “electroencephalographically” is the longest English word. Try saying it; it might just sound like you’ve sneezed! It’s a type of examination doctors use on their patients’ brains. Probably not a word you’d say every day… unless you work in a hospital, that is.
Some say the longest word in the English language is the chemical name of titin, the largest known protein, which is a whopping 189,819 letters long.
💡 Apparently, it would take you over 3.5 hours to pronounce it in full. That’s 42 days’ worth of flashcard revision on the MosaLingua app! If you wanted to post this word on Twitter, you’d have to put it in over 1355 separate tweets!
But again, not exactly a word you’re likely to hear when chatting with friends.
Enough of the medical mumbo-jumbo! Unless you work for a lab or a dictionary, you’re not going to hear pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis or pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism any time soon. Our quest for the longest word you’re likely to hear in English continues.
What about the famous tongue-twister from Mary Poppins, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious? Whether you see it, spell it, or say it, this word has a whopping 34 letters. Could be a strong contender as the longest word in English, right? We’d love for this magical, musical word to be our winner, but it’s not really that meaningful, and you probably won’t hear it much either! So if you are sticking to the rules, this one doesn’t cut it in the competition for the longest word.
In the 1990s, incomprehensibilities took the number one spot for the longest word in the English language. With twenty-one letters, incomprehensibilities is one of the longest English words in common usage.
English might be popular, but it’s not the only language in the world, and it definitely doesn’t have the longest words in the world! In English, we tend to keep things short and sweet, and we love contractions like can’t, don’t, and won’t. But there are plenty of languages (we’re looking at you, German!) that love sticking words together to create huge long words, called compounds. These are called agglutinative languages. They include German (of course), Japanese, Turkish, Korean, and Hungarian. So which language has the longest word? Let the games begin!
Wow! That’s a massive 63 letters long. It means “law for regulating the labeling of beef.” This hyper word won German Word of the Year in 1999. But in 2013, the EU dropped requirements for beef labeling, and Germany dropped this word! But fear not, Germany still has some super-long words.
“Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften” is one of Germany’s longest words in common usage. This one means “legal protection insurance companies,” and has 39 letters. We all know how much Germans love the law and technical terms, so you might actually hear this one!
German numbers can get pretty long too. Unlike English numbers, German compounds numbers together. So the number 7,777 is written in word form in German as siebentausendsiebenhundertsiebundsiebzig. Gesundheit!
The Dutch word for “multiple personality disorders” has a huge 38 letters. It may not be the longest word in the world, but that’s quite a mouthful for an everyday word. Like other Germanic languages, Dutch has a lot of compound words. This means that its vocabulary can be glued together to make long words, which are often phrases in themselves.
This 31-letter word is one of the longest words in Spanish, meaning “sternocleidomastoid.” (That’s a muscle in the human neck.) It doesn’t quite compete with the longest German words, but this one really is a tongue twister.
At 26 letters, this Italian word means “in a hurry,” or “hastily.” Such a long word for such a quick concept! This might be one of the longest Italian words to be officially recognized, but you will hear it more in jokes than in everyday language.
The French word for “anticonstitutionally” has 25 letters in total. Not much competition for the longest German word, right?
Actually, some people think that intergouvernementalisations is the longest French word in common usage. This 27-letter word is used in administrative literature and means multiple governments working together. But the Académie Française has confirmed that this is not the longest word in the French language. They say it doesn’t count because it’s a neologism, meaning that it is a new word. So that breaks rule number 2: sustained usage! Maybe someday it will qualify as the longest word in French…
You might have thought that French numbers would be extra long too, just like in German. French is famous for having complicated numbers, such as quatre-vingt-dix (four-twenties-ten) for the number ninety. But luckily, they hyphenate their numbers, so no complex long numbers here!
That’s a gigantic 64-letter word! So is the longest word in the world an Icelandic one? This word means “a keychain ring for the outdoor key to a road worker’s shed in a moor called Vaðlaheið.” Can you see yourself using that in conversation? Perhaps not. So really this word isn’t in common usage. Sorry Iceland, try again next time!
Welsh is well-known as a tricky language. Those double “L”s make a weird and wonderful sound, pronounced as a /ɬ/ (look it up in the International Phonetic Alphabet for more info), which has no English equivalent. It’s a bit like a “hl” sound. Try it – it’s harder than it seems! Let’s make this a bit easier. Say the word “house.” That’s a normal “h” sound. Now say the word “hue.” That’s a voiceless palatal fricative, which is a fancy way of saying that your tongue touches the roof of your mouth and pushes vibrating air through a tiny hole when you say it.
This 51-letter word might not be easy to say, but unfortunately, it’s not really a word either. It’s the name of a town in Wales, in other words, a proper noun, so it doesn’t qualify. If you want to hear how this long Welsh word sounds, you can listen to Naomi Watts pronouncing the longest word perfectly on YouTube.
Ah, Danish. The mother tongue of those silver-fox actors, Mads and Lars Mikkelsen. This 54-letter word was invented by another famous Danish native, fairytale author Hans Christian Andersen. It means “the goaty-legged-above-and-under-general-war-commanding-sergeant.” Yes, really! He invented this word to make fun of traditional Danish military titles. But as you’ll know by now, that means it’s not in common usage, and it’s not really meaningful. So once again, this is not really eligible for the contest of the longest word in the world.
Tagalog is an official language in the Philippines. This 59-letter word is a strong contender for the longest word in the world, especially because it has a legitimate meaning: “lying that causes the most extreme anger.” We can relate…
I bet you think you’ve seen it all now! German beef labeling, Italian inside jokes, Danish fairytales, and Welsh tongue-twisting towns. The longest words in the world really are the weirdest ones. How about a little bit of relief from those long words?
Now that we’ve jumped all the technical hurdles and crossed the globe to find the longest words in history, it’s time for the verdict. We’ve seen so many long words, we think that some deserve an honorable mention!
As we saw at the start of our hunt, the longest word according to a lot of sources is the technical name for the protein titin. It is the same across all languages and has nearly 200,000 letters. Here’s a snippet of the first 4,000 characters!
Definitely not a word for the faint of heart! But as we know, lots of people discount this as a technical term which is never, ever used.
The longest made-up word is a difficult one to judge. If we include agglutinative languages, we’d be here for years just trying to imagine them all. For example, Polish allows the phrase “999,999,999,999 years old” to be glued together into one word. And it ends up being 176 letters long! So “dziewięćsetdziewięćdziesiątdziewięćmiliardówdziewięćsetdziewięćdziesiątdziewięćmilionówdziewięćsetdziewięćdziesiątdziewięćtysięcydziewięćsetdziewięćdziesięciodziewięcioletniego” might have to be discounted. You might be here until you’re 999,999 million years old if you try to count all the agglutinative words!
In the annual meeting of the National Puzzlers’ League in 1935, the league’s president Everett M. Smith decided to challenge the world’s longest words. He came up with pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. This 45-letter word now appears in the Oxford English Dictionary as “an artificial long word said to mean a lung disease caused by inhaling very fine ash and sand dust.” It overtook “electrophotomicrographically” as the longest word to appear in any English dictionary, even if it is a fake!
So here it is, the longest common word in any language! And by that, we mean one you’re likely to hear or use in that language. As we saw earlier, Germany boasts a huge 63-letter word which used to be used commonly in the meatpacking industry, but we aren’t quite convinced.
Our winner for the longest word in common usage is… drumroll, please!
The longest word in the world is Meervoudigepersoonlijkheidsstoornissen.
This 38-letter Dutch word for multiple personality disorders is probably the longest word you’re likely to hear in everyday conversation.
Meervoudigepersoonlijkheidsstoornissen” is such a long word that most people shorten it to MPS, and we don’t blame them! How the heck do you say that? Here’s how to pronounce the longest word in the world:
Click the play button to learn how to say the longest word in the world:
Give it a try!
Whew! We haven’t even made it to the longest word in all languages yet, but we’re already tired! Cleanse your palate (or brain?) with these short long words:
- Strengths (9 letters)
- Scrounged (9 letters)
- Schlepped (9 letters)
- Screeched (9 letters)
- Slapped (8 letters)
- Scratched (9 letters)
- Scrunched (9 letters)
Seems like those S-words might all have something in common! These are all words that only have one syllable. We s-s-s-s-struggled to come up with any that didn’t start with S. Can you? If you don’t think the longest single-syllable word is on our list, let us know in the comments!
We all know that it’s rare to find a word without a vowel. Unless of course, you’re speaking Welsh! Here is the longest English word without vowels:
- Rhythms (7 letters)
- Spryly (6 letters) – this means to act quickly.
- Syzygy (6 letters) – we hadn’t heard of this one either! It has a few meanings, including a straight line of three or more celestial bodies in astronomy.
We know what you’re thinking. Doesn’t “y” sometimes count as a vowel? Here are some words without it:
- Tsktsk – the accepted spelling of the sound of disapproval
- nth – the mathematical term for “the item at position n in a sequence.”
A palindrome is a word spelled the same way whether you read it forward or backward. As you might expect, they tend to be fairly short because of the extra requirement they have to fulfill. That said, there is at least one 12-letter palindrome in the English dictionary:
- Tattarrattat – onomatopoeia coined by James Joyce, so maybe it belongs in the longest made-up word section below…
- Detartrated – this 11-letter palindrome word made the Guinness Book of World Records (the longest palindrome word in any language according to Guinness is “saippuakivikauppias,” a Finnish word for lye dealer).
Technically it’s a morpheme, or unit of language that has meaning, not a word. Vietnamese is an isolating language, so their words are made up of multiple morphemes but separated by spaces. The longest morpheme, meaning “tilted” or “leaning” is just seven letters long:
For those of you who learned proper typing position, you’ll know that they aren’t as long as you’d think! And they aren’t as fun to say as they are to type! Give these a try:
- Hypophillium – The longest word you can type with your right hand.
- Sweaterdresses – The longest word you can type with your left hand. But, you’re supposed to type 15 letters with your left hand and just 11 with your right. So it’s a little unfair, if you ask us. Another fun left-hand word is “abracadabra.”
So now you know! Not only are the Netherlands home to delicious Stroopwaffels and winding canals, but they have the longest word in any language: Meervoudigepersoonlijkheidsstoornissen! Want to keep up with interesting language facts, tips, and tricks? Check out the MosaLingua Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube channel for more! Don’t forget to leave us a comment below and let us know what you thought.