How long are the world’s longest words? These 10 words will surprise you

longest words in the world
Saying some of these longest words in the world can feel as painstaking as creating this 6.5km-long cake at Kerala's cultural capital Thrissur. Source: AFP

The longest words in the world are key to understanding how we evolved as the human species over thousands of years.

This is because language and culture are the frameworks through which we experience, communicate and understand reality.

While scholars debate this learning theory by Lev Vygotsky, it could explain why the longest words in the world exist: as human grow, languages evolve. 

As we enter an era where artificial intelligence has become a popular buzzword, there’s a chance we may no longer value these words. With that, we use it less — until it becomes extinct.

With some languages, especially those that have been around for over 100,000 years, there are words that are disappearing faster than we know it.

Will the list of the longest words in the world get shorter? 

From the first language in the world — Sumerian, as written proof of it was discovered on the Kish tablet in today’s Iraq, dating back to approximately 3500 BC — we now have over 7,000 languages.

That number, however, is set to shrink. 

When some languages thrive and continue to evolve, this causes others to face the risk of extinction.

Grant, for example, is an elder of Australia’s second-largest Aboriginal tribe — the Wiradjuri — who roamed most of central New South Wales before white farmers surged inland in the early 1800s.

He was only a handful of people speaking his tribal language, known as Wiradjuri (pronounced wi-RAD-jury).

It nearly died out in the 20th century, when Aboriginals could be jailed for speaking their native tongue in public.

Ganesh Devy, who is leading research to determine how many distinct languages still exist in India, shared with the New York Times about a woman’s death in 2010 on the Andaman Islands.

She was from the Boa tribe. 

During her final years, she would “speak a lot with birds because there was no one around to speak her language.”

What this says about the longest words in the world is that despite being rarely used, they still hold a cultural heritage that captures different emotions — each of which with histories and meanings that’ll fascinate our modern minds.

longest words in the world

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis refers to a lung disease. Source: AFP

10 of the world’s longest words that’ll blow your mind

1. Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis

One of the longest words in English, this 45-letter word refers to a lung disease resulting from the inhalation of silica or quartz dust. 

This word was coined in 1935 by Everett M. Smith, who served as the National Puzzlers’ League president at the time.

While the word is made up, the disease is real, and it’s known under the names pneumoconiosis, silicosis, or black lung.

It can be broken down into: 

  • Pneumono: from ancient Greek, which means lungs
  • ultra: from Latin, meaning beyond
  • micro and scopic: from ancient Greek, meaning small looking, referring to the fineness of particulates
  • silico-: from Latin, silicon
  • volcano: from Latin, referring to volcano
  • coni: from ancient Greek, which means dust
  • -osis: from ancient Greek, suffix to indicate a medical condition
longest words in the world

Kilometres of confiscated electricity cable lie piled on a truck after being pulled out by Cape Town Electricity Officials (not seen), in an informal settlement called Oasis Farm, near Cape Town, on September 13, 2023. Source: AFP

2. Electroencefalografía 

Often abbreviated as EEG, “electroencefalografía” is a 21-letter Spanish word used in medicine and neuroscience.

It’s called “Electroencephalography” when translated into English. An EEG is a diagnostic test that records electrical activity in the brain by placing electrodes on the scalp. 

It monitors and analyses brain function and can provide valuable information for diagnosing neurological conditions such as epilepsy, sleep disorders, and brain injuries.

It can be broken down into: 

  • Electro: referring to electricity or electrical signals
  • encefalo: derived from the Greek word “εγκέφαλος” (encephalos), meaning brain
  • grafía: a suffix in Spanish that denotes the act of recording or writing
longest words in the world

Anticonstitutionnellement means “unconstitutionally” in English. Source: AFP

3. Anticonstitutionnellement

This is a 25-letter French word that means “unconstitutionally” in English. In other words, it is used to describe actions or laws that go against or are in violation of a country’s constitution.

It is known for being one of the longest words in the French language and is often cited as an example of a long word in French. 

It can be broken down into: 

  • Anti: a prefix indicating opposition or against
  • constitutionnel: relating to the constitution, in this context, it means “constitutional”
  • -ment: a suffix in French used to form adverbs
longest words in the world

Chuo University runner Yamato Yoshii (R) runs ahead of the group during the opening day of the two-day Tokyo-Hakone collegiate Ekiden long-distance road relay run in Tokyo on January 2, 2022. Source: AFP

4. Precipitevolissimevolmente

The longest non-technical word in Italian has 26 letters and 13 syllables.

The word means “very hurriedly” or “extremely hastily”. It describes actions or events that occur in an incredibly rushed or hurried manner.

It was created by Francesco Moneti (1635-1712), a friar, astronomist, and satirical writer from Cortona. Today, he is remembered for having come up with the longest word in the Italian language, which appeared in “La Cortona,” one of his posthumously published works.

It is an adverb and can be broken down into:

  • Precipitevole: an adjective meaning “hurried” or “hasty”
  • -issimo: a suffix in Italian used to intensify the meaning, similar to adding “very” or “extremely”
  • -mente: a suffix in Italian used to form adverbs
longest words in the world

أفاستسقيناكموهميئة means “I gave them water to drink it.” Source: AFP

5. أفاستسقيناكموهميئة 

This word consists of 19 letters, and it means “I gave them water to drink it.” 

Arabic is known for its complex word formations, allowing for the creation of very long words by adding prefixes, suffixes, and roots together. 

However, such lengthy words are not commonly used in everyday language and are typically found in technical or scientific contexts.

It can be broken down into: 

  • أفاء (Afaa): root of the word, meaning “he gave”
  • است (Ista): a prefix used for the past tense
  • سقى (Saqa): another root meaning “he gave to drink” or “he watered”
  • نا (Naa): a suffix indicating the first person plural, meaning “we.”
  • كم (kum): a suffix indicating “you all”
  • هم (hum): a pronoun meaning “them”
  • يئة (ya’a): a suffix denoting an object, in this case, “it”

6. превысокомногорассмотрительствующий

This is a 35-letter adjective that roughly translates to “supremely considering” in English.

It describes someone or something that is very thorough or overly considerate in their approach to examining or considering matters.

Like many languages, Russian allows for the creation of long compound words by combining roots and affixes, but these words are not commonly used in regular conversation.

It’s an adjective that can be broken down into:

  • Пре-: a prefix indicating “over” or “excessive”
  • Высоко-: a prefix meaning “high” or “supreme”
  • Много-: a prefix meaning “many” or “much”
  • Рассмотрительствующий: an adjective form of the verb “рассматривать,” which means “to consider” or “to examine”
longest words in the world

The Hindi word “lauhpathagāminīsūchakdarshkaharitatāmralauhpaṭṭikā” is associated with railways. Source: AFP

7. लौहपथगामिनीसूचकदर्शकहरितताम्रलौहपट्टिका (lauhpathagāminīsūchakdarshkaharitatāmralauhpaṭṭikā)

This is the word that is commonly known as the longest in Hindi, and it has unofficially become part of the Hindi dictionary after the creation of railways.

Consisting of 30 letters, when translated into English, this compound word means “The indicator or viewer of the railway timetable in a greenish-copper colour.”

This word is not commonly used in everyday language and is more of an example of how compound words can be formed in Hindi.

It can be broken down into: 

  • लौहपथ (lauhpath) – meaning “railway” or “train track”
  • गामिनी (gaamini) – meaning “going” or “travelling”
  • सूचक (soochak) – meaning “indicator” or “sign”
  • दर्शक (darshak) – meaning “viewer” or “observer”
  • हरितताम्र (haritatamra) – a compound term referring to a greenish-copper colour
  • लौहपट्टिका (lauhpatika) – meaning “railway timetable” or “train schedule”

8. Pneumoultramicroscopicossilicovulcanoconiótico

It’s the longest word in Portuguese.

It is a plural noun meaning sufferers of the disease pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.

While it may sound like a complicated (read: very complicated) medical term, it is not often used in medicine.

And here’s a fun fact: it was intentionally coined to be an extremely long word in Portuguese. 

  • Pneumo: related to the lungs
  • ultramicroscopico: ultra-microscopic, indicating something very small
  • silico: related to silicon
  • vulcano: referring to a volcano
  • conio: likely derived from “cono” (cone) or “coni” (dust), related to lung conditions
  • tico: a suffix in Portuguese used to form adjectives or nouns, often indicating a condition or characteristic
longest words in the world

The longest German word is referring to law about meat labelling and cattle marking. Source: AFP

9. Rinderkennzeichnungsfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz

With 79 letters, this word is one of the longest in German. It refers to a law related to the transfer of responsibilities for supervising meat labelling and cattle marking.

While this word exists, it’s not commonly used in everyday language and is more of a linguistic curiosity.

This word can be broken down into:

  • Rinder: means cattle
  • kennzeichnung: means labelling or marking
  • fleisch: means meat
  • etikettierung: means labelling or tagging
  • uberwachung: means supervision or monitoring
  • aufgaben: means tasks or responsibilities
  • übertragung: means transfer
  • gesetz: means law.

10. 虎が人を噛もうとするときのうなり

This is the longest word in the Japanese language, and it translates to “the growl a tiger makes when it’s about to bite someone”.

With 37 letters in total, this is a relatively descriptive word in Japanese.

It can be broken down into:

  • 虎 (Tora) – means “tiger” in Japanese
  • が (ga) – this is a particle used to indicate the subject of the sentence. In this case, it indicates that the tiger is the subject
  • 人 (hito) – means “person” in Japanese
  • を (o) – this is a particle used to indicate the direct object of the verb. In this case, it indicates that the person is the object of the action
  • 噛もう (kamou) – this is the verb form of “噛む” (kamu), which means “to bite”
  • と (to) – this is a conjunction meaning “when” or “if”
  • する (suru) – this is the verb “to do” or “to perform”
  • 時 (toki) – means “time” or “moment”
  • の (no) – this is a particle often used to indicate possession or association
  • うなり (unari) –  means “growl” or “roar”