“My revenge is fraternity! No more frontiers! The Rhine for everyone! Let us be the same Republic, let us be the United States of Europe, let us be the continental federation, let us be European liberty, let us be universal peace!”
Did you know that a German 79-letters word is the European longest word? Or that the Irish Gaelic one is the shortest (longest) word in Europe? Ever noticed that some longest words directly relate to the history of the country they belong to? Such as in French, for instance: the French launched a revolution to get a constitution, they ended up inventing the word ‘Anticonstitutionnellement’ in fear of losing it! Or the Brits, they made everything they could to separate their Church from the Vatican: they came up with the word ‘Antidisestablishmentarianism’ in opposition to those who would want to diminish the Church of England! And what about the Norwegians: they created the Nobel Peace Prize and ended up with the word ‘Menneskerettighetsorganisasjonene’ which stands for “human rights organisations”… Fascinating isn’t it?
Guess what? Portugal must be full of lawyers as the longest non technical word in Portuguese is nothing else than the adverb anticonstitucionalissimamente. It means “anticonstitutionally“ – that is to say, in a way that is not conforming to the constitution. It counts not less than 29 letters!
This 24-letters Spanish word means electroencephalograph technicians. It is usually considered the longest word in Spanish language. Spaniards often make the joke that the longest Spanish word is actually “arroz” (rice), because it “starts with an ‘a’ and ends with a ‘z’ – the first and last letters of the Spanish alphabet…
With (only) 25 letters, the longest word in French doesn’t look so impressive – especially when compared to other countries’ references. But you shouldn’t be surprised that France’s longest word precisely refers to a constitution: its citizens actually launched a revolution to get one… After all the pain they endured, they wouldn’t dare doing something “anticonstitutionally“!
There are not less than 64 letters in this Icelandic word and it looks even less pronounceable than the most complicated tongue twister! But rest assured that you won’t have so many opportunities to ask for the “Key ring of the key chain of the outer door to the storage tool shed of the road workers on the Vaðlaheiði plateau” in real life. You could easily lengthen the word by being even more specific. Remember that if you try to tweet it, you won’t have many characters left!
If we exclude coined and technical terms, the 28-letters word ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’ is considered the longest word in English-speaking popular culture! It designates a political position in opposition to proposals for the disestablishment of the Church of England – that is to say, to remove the Anglican Church’s status as the state Church of England, Ireland, and Wales. Some Brits nevertheless pointed out that the word “smiles” does better as there is a ‘mile’ between both ‘S’es… Ah! We’ll never get used to the Brits’ sense of humour!
Here comes a real word in ordinary use. Meaning “the human rights organizations“, ‘menneskerettighetsorganisasjonene’, it counts not less than 33 letters and is the longest word in Norwegian. You wouldn’t expect another word than one related to human rights in Norway, where the Nobel Peace Prize is delivered!
According to the Svenska Akademiens Ordlista – the dictionary published every few years by the Swedish Academy – the longest word in Swedish language is ‘Realisationsvinstbeskattning’. It is quite a boring word as it means “capital gains tax”. But it still counts not less than 28 letters.
According to the Finnish edition of the Guinness Book of Records, the longest acceptable Finnish word is ‘lentokonesuihkuturbiinimoottoriapumekaanikkoaliupseerioppilas’. It doesn’t look acceptable to us if we have to pronounce it in full! It has 61 letters and would approximately be translated as “the airplane jet turbine engine auxiliary mechanic under officer student”. Sounds specific? This word was actually in use for a while in the Finnish Air Force.
Counting 41 letters, the most famous and curious longest word in Dutch designates an “exhibition ground for Hottentot huts“. Dutch is a so-called “agglutinative” language which means that it is perfectly legitimate to string together related words that describe a particular person, thing, or situation and thus create a brand-new compound word.
Germany – Austria – Luxembourg – Switzerland
The writer Mark Twain once said that “some German words are so long that they even have a perspective”. With 79 letters, we need not less than 15 words in English to translate the classic longest word in German: “Association for subordinate officials of the head office management of the Danube steamboat electrical services.” German is an “agglutinative” language which offers other amusing examples: in 1999, members of a regional parliament adopted the law entitled ‘Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz’ (literally, the cattle marking and beef labeling supervision duties delegation law). Try to pronounce it as quick as you can!
With its unusual length of 26 letters, this Italian word is regarded as the longest term deriving from the adjective ‘precipitevole’. It means “in a way like someone/something acts very hastily“. It is funny to consider that the word is grammatically incorrect, but is nowadays part of everyday’s language, especially in jokes. In 1677, the Italian poet Francesco Moneti even used it in one of his creation: “finché alla terra alfin torna repente / precipitevolissimevolmente” (Cortona Convertita, canto III, LXV)…
‘Znajneprekryštalizovávateľnejšievajúcimi’ counts not less than 40 letters. It is the plural form for “with most anticrystallizing”! No doubt it makes many points once placed on triple word score in the Slovakian scrabble game!
Even though other longer words can be composed by assembling adjectives, the 32-letters word ‘Konstantynopolitańczykowianeczka’ is the traditional longest Polish word. It designates the ‘unmarried daughter of a man from Constantinople’. Of course, it is not a recent word, as Constantinople doesn’t exist anymore…
A 42-letters word to express not less than “the tiredness one feels on the afternoon of the weekend birthday party”: this is the Estonian longest word which is actually composed of a combination of many words “birth day”, “week end”, “party”, “after lunch” and “tiredness”.
Now comes a different alphabet to complicate it even further! This word from Belarus is full of strange letters –but you can read it like ‘elektrapavetrarazmerkavalnik‘. It means “electrical plenum chamber“.
Romania – Moldova
There is in Romania and Moldova a lung disease which affects pit workers. It is called ‘Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcaniconioză’ and counts 44 letters. You may indeed loose your breath trying to pronounce it…
Hungarian is also an agglutinative language, so that there is no limit to words in Hungarian. The 44-letters word ‘Megszentségteleníthetetlenségeskedéseitekért’ is nevertheless officially regarded as the longest word in Hungarian language. It means something like “for your [plural] continued behaviour pretending to be indesecratable’“. The core of the word is ‘szent’ – meaning “saint” – but you’ll find plenty of inflexions, prefixes and suffixes in the package…
The longest word in Slovenian is said to be ‘dialektičnomaterialističen’ which means “dialectical materialistic“. It sounds a bit philosophical with its 26 letters… Another relevant (long) word in Slovenian is ‘starocerkvenoslovanščina’. It is historically important as it designates the “Old Slavonic Church”.
Prijestolonasljednikovica – ПРЕСТОЛОНАСЛЕДНИКОВИЦА
The “official” record in Croatian language and which was once part of the Guiness book is the 24-letters word ‘prijestolonasljednikovica’. It designates the “wife of a heir to the throne“. If you want to know who she is, we have some legends and fairy tales for you!
Bosnia and Herzegovina
The longest word in Albanian is probably ‘Kundërzhurmëkrijuesabërësave’, which is 27 letters long and means “Against noise maker makers”. Something to get angry at!
Bulgaria – North Macedonia
Непротивоконституционствувателствувайте – Neprotivokonstitutsionstvuvatelstvuvayte
The longest word in Bulgarian is the 39-characters-long word ‘Непротивоконституционствувателствувайте’. You can even find it written at the beginning of the Bulgarian constitution! But rest assured it is not sung in their national anthem! It requires “not to take actions which are against the constitution of the country”.
The longest word in Greek that you can find in a dictionary means “of an electroencephalogram“. It has 24 letters. In his comedy Assemblywomen (c. 392 BC) Aristophanes coined the 173-letter word ‘λοπαδοτεμαχοσελαχογαλεοκρανιολειψανοδριμυποτριμματοσιλφιοκαραβομελιτοκατακεχυμενοκιχλεπικοσσυφοφαττοπεριστεραλεκτρυονοπτοκεφαλλιοκιγκλοπελειολαγῳοσιραιοβαφητραγανοπτερύγων’ which is a fictional food dish consisting of a combination of fish, poultry and other meat…
Once again, we are enjoying the beauty of an agglutinative language! Turkish can provide words of a potentially infinite length. This 71-letters word is often cited as the longest Turkish word, and even sometimes as a tongue twister. It means “As though you are from those we may not be able to easily make a maker of unsuccessful ones“. We have no clue what it actually means in concrete terms…
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