Have you ever participated in a spelling bee? As you learn to read and write, becoming a good speller will help you excel in your studies. Spelling bees put you to the test by allowing you to compete with your friends to see who is a super speller!
Most spelling bees start out with short, easy words. As the competition goes on, though, words get longer and harder to spell. If you knew how to spell every word in the English language, the competition would eventually get around to some of the words in today’s Wonder of the Day.
Have you ever wondered what the longest word in the English language is? Believe it or not, there’s no simple answer to that question. You might think it would be as easy as opening a dictionary and looking for the longest word. Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Over time, many people have suggested many different words for the title of longest word in the English language. How can that be? Well, as it turns out, people argue over what should be considered a word. Some of the words suggested by some people were even simply made up to be the longest word!
For example, one really famous long word that most kids know comes from Disney’s movie Mary Poppins: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. But since that 34-letter word was made up simply to be sung as a song in a movie, should it count?
How about long words that actually describe something in the world? Scientists have come up with a couple of possible candidates. The name of the tobacco mosaic virus when spelled out totals a whopping 1,185 letters. There’s also a tryptophan protein whose name totals 1,909 letters.
Should these hold the crown? “Not so fast!” say some people. Are these words ever actually used? Can they even be pronounced? And should long technical names even count, since they could’ve been made up just to be long?
The longest word that appears in a major English dictionary is Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. Found in the Oxford English Dictionary, it’s the name of a lung disease. Many people don’t count it either, though, since it was created to win a puzzle contest in 1935.
The longest nontechnical word that wasn’t made up and most people can agree upon as being a “real” word is the 28-letter antidisestablishmentarianism. It means — roughly — opposition to the withdrawal of State support from a church. Of course, it’s not without its critics.
Some point out that it’s really just a jumble of prefixes and suffixes. To prove their point, critics point out that other people have added the prefix “pseudo” to the word to create the 34-letter pseudoantidisestablishmentarianism, which would be false opposition to the withdrawal of State support from a church.
Yikes! What’s a wordsmith to do? If you’re wondering what the longest words you might actually encounter in regular English text are, those words include uncharacteristically (20 letters), deinstitutionalization (22 letters) and counterrevolutionaries (also 22 letters).
Naturally, some smarty pants might make a case for smiles being the longest word in the English language. Sure, it has only six letters, but you can also truthfully say that there is a “mile” between the first and last letters!