“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 was the European longest word and that the Irish Gaelic one was the shortest (longest) word on the continent? More surprisingly and for some curious reasons, it is interesting to notice that some longest words in few European countries are directly linked to their national backgrounds. French men launched a revolution to get a constitution, they afterwards invented the word ‘Anticonstitutionnellement’, English men separated their Church from the Vatican, and they get ‘Antidisestablishmentarianism’, Norwegianpeople invented the Peace Nobel Price, they have ‘Menneskerettighetsorganisasjonene’… Fascinating isn’t it?
The 24-letters word meaning electroencephalograph technicians is considered as the usual longest word in Spanish language. Humorously, the longest Spanish word is often cited to be “arroz” (rice),because it “starts with an ‘a’ and ends with a ‘z’, the first and last letters of the Spanish alphabet (also most traditional alphabets).
With (only) 25 letters, the French longest word ‘anticonstitutionnellement’ is not so impressive compared to other countries’ references. This is not really a surprise that France’s longest word precisely refers to a constitution as the country actually launched a revolution to get one…
There are not less than 64 letters in the Icelandic longest word. The meaning of this unpronounceable word is: “Key ring of the key chain of the outer door to the storage tool shed of the road workers on the Vaðlaheiði plateau”. You could easily lengthen the word by being even more specific. If you tweet it, you won’t have much characters left!
If we exclude coined and technical terms, the 28-letters word ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’ is considered as 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 remove the Anglican Church’s status as the state Church of England, Ireland, and Wales. Humorously, some say that “smiles” is the longest word ever, because there is a mile between both ‘S’es.
Meaning “the human rights organizations“, ‘menneskerettighetsorganisasjonene’ counts not less than 33 letters and is the longest usual word in Norwegian, that is a real word in ordinary use. In Norway, where the Nobel Peace Prize is delivered, this is actually not a surprise that the longest word deals precisely with human rights!
According to the Finnish edition of Guinness Book of Records, the longest acceptable Finnish word is ‘lentokonesuihkuturbiinimoottoriapumekaanikkoaliupseerioppilas’ which has 61 characters. It would be approximately translated as “airplane jet turbine engine auxiliary mechanic under officer student” This word has actually been in use in the Finnish Air Force.
Counting 41 characters, the most famous and curious Dutch longest word 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, Luxemburg & Switzerland
The writer Mark Twain once said “some German words are so long that they even have a perspective”. The classic longest German word with its 79 letters would be translated in English into 15 words “Association for subordinate officials of the head office management of the Danube steamboat electrical services.” As an “agglutinative” language, German can however offer other amusing examples, just as in 1999 when members of a regional parliament adopted the law entitled ‘Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz’ (literally, Cattle marking and beef labeling supervision duties delegation law). Try to pronounce it without pause!
With its unusual length of 26 letters, the Italian word is regarded as the longest term deriving from the adjective ‘precipitevole’, and meaning “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 the language, especially in jokes. It was even coined in 1677 by poet Francesco Moneti: “finché alla terra alfin torna repente / precipitevolissimevolmente” (Cortona Convertita, canto III, LXV)
Even though other longer words can be composed by assembling adjectives, the 32-letters word is the traditional longest Polish term. It designates the unmarried daughter of a man from Constantinople. Of course, it is not a modern word, as Constantinople doesn’t exist anymore and is now called Istanbul!
Romania & Moldova
As an agglutinative language, the borders of longest Hungarian words are endless. However, the 44-letters ‘Megszentségteleníthetetlenségeskedéseitekért’ is officially regarded as the longest word in the Hungarian language and means something like “for your [plural] continued behaviour pretending to be indesecratable’“. The core of the word is ‘szent’, meaning “saint” but contains plenty of inflexions, prefix, suffix, etc.
The longest word in Slovenian language is said to be ‘dialektičnomaterialističen’ which means “dialectical materialistic“. It has 26 letters. Another relevant long word in Slovenian which is historically important is ‘starocerkvenoslovanščina’ meaning the “Old Slavonic Church”.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Непротивоконституционствувателствувайте – Neprotivokonstitutsionstvuvatelstvuvayte
The longest word in Bulgarian is the 39-characters long word ‘Непротивоконституционствувателствувайте’. One can find it written at the beginning of the Bulgarian constitution and it means “not to take actions which are against the constitution of the country”.
The longest Greek word to be found in a dictionary means “of an electroencephalogram“. It has 24 characters. 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, hare usually refers to rabbit.
Once again, as 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 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“.