Eye-popping Long Words

A knickknackatory of brobdingnagian words, especially for epistemophiliacs


Definition:

: a repository or collection of knickknacks

Example:

"For my part, I keep a Nicknackatory or Toy-shop, as I formerly did over against the Exchange, and turn a sweet penny by it." - Thomas Brown, Letters from the Dead to the Living, 1702

About the Word:

You may think of your aged relative's cluttered apartment, festooned and laden with tchotchkes and chipped ephemera, as nothing more than a mess, but they may think of it proudly as a knickknackatory. The word, which has been in use since the beginning of the 18th century, was fashioned by tacking the suffix -atory (meaning 'of, belonging to, or connected with') onto the existing word knickknack, in the style of similar words, such as conservatory and laboratory. (Knickknack has long had the alternate spelling nicknack, employed in the longer word in the quote above.)

Definition:

: a remonstrance to a remonstrance

Example:

"It would not redeeme the wrong they have done to the King their Master … by these notorious Blasphemies, Contradictions, Remonstrances, and Contra-Remonstrances." - England's Second Alarm to War, 1643

About the Word:

Contraremonstrance is a lovely word, and would appear to be useful at so many points in one's life that it is odd that it has never quite caught on (it appears to be used mainly to write about ecclesiastic schisms and the like). There is no more dignified word with which to describe the banal quibbles that you and your significant other have over such weighty matters as whose turn it is to take the recycling down to the basement.

Definition:

: composed of both good and evil

Example:

"For indeed upon the agathokakological globe there are opposite qualities always to be found." - Robert Southey, The Doctor, 1834

About the Word:

Agathokakological is likely the creation of Robert Southey, a reviewer and poet who was born in Bristol in the late 18th century. This thorny mouthful is made by combining the Greek roots agath- (good), kako- (a variant of cac-, meaning bad), and -logical (the adjectival suffix based on logos, meaning word). Southey was exceedingly fond of peppering his writing with new coinages (The Oxford English Dictionary lists him as the earliest known author for almost 400 words), very few of which have caught on. The reason for this is that most of them tend to be rather unwieldy, and we haven't much need to adopt such specimens as futilitarian (a person devoted to futility), batrachophagous (frog-eating), and epistolization (letter writing) in our everyday discourse.

Definition:

: coming before the next to last in any series

Example:

"Hostess - You seemed embarrassed at meeting Mr. Smoykle, Mrs. Travnoo.
Guest - I thought you knew, Mrs. Longshore. He's my - my antepenultimate husband. " - Palatine Enterprise, 11 Oct. 1907

About the Word:

Sometimes you need to refer to the last thing in a series, and we all feel fairly comfortable in what we call that thing (the last). Sometimes you need to refer to the second to last thing in a series, and you have a need to sound pedantic while doing so; in such cases you may refer to the penultimate. But what of those times when you need to refer to the third to the last thing, sound pedantic, and also utterly confuse the people with whom you are speaking? For those occasions you may use antepenultimate.

Definition:

: likely to respond to a suggestion by doing or believing the contrary

Example:

"Small boys are noted for doing just the contrary of what they are told to do. Some people who are full grown have the same reputation. These people are called contra-suggestible." - The Trained Nurse and Hospital Review, 1922 

About the Word:

Contrasuggestible looks like a fancy word for describing that an adult is acting like a child, and as the citation above indicates, that is pretty much how it is (albeit infrequently) employed. It was first used in the early 20th century, primarily in psychological literature, and doubtless has been of great utility to many psychologists who were finally able to stop barking at their patients 'stop acting like a child!'

Definition:

: 1. an inhabitant of Brobdingnag, an imaginary land of giants in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels 2:  someone or something marked by tremendous size

Example:

"Just unpacked placemats I ordered from John Lewis. They are 39 cm across. Brobdingnagian. Feel I have entered some strange world" - Diana Henry (@DianaHenryFood), on Twitter, 18 Feb. 2015

About the Word:

Brobdingnagian comes to our language from Gulliver's Travels, in which book there was a land called Brobdingnag, where everything was large. Gulliver's Travels was first published in 1726, and the word was quickly adopted by other writers (we see it being used within two years). There are a good number of adjectives in English with similar meaning that have been formed in this fashion: leviathan (after the fabled sea monster), gargantuan (after the hero of Rabelais's character, Gargantua), titanic (after the forebears of the Greek gods), and polyphemian (after the greedy cyclops who devoured several of Ulysses's men in the Odyssey).

Definition:

: a person of a weak or sickly constitution; especially : one whose chief concern is his or her ill health

Example:

"At this pool … are a multitude of scorbuticks, hypochondriacks and other valetudinarians." - William Simpson, The History of Scarbrough-Spaw, 1679

About the Word:

At first glance, there is little need to add valetudinarian to the arsenal of words taking up valuable real estate in your brain. After all, the English language already has a number of fine ways to describe a sick person (invalid, patient, and whatever term you use to describe that child on the bus who keeps sneezing on you). However, valetudinarian has the additional meaning "one whose chief concern is his or her own health," which sets that word apart from the blameless invalid and patients.

Definition:

: love of knowledge; specifically : excessive striving for or preoccupation with knowledge

Example:

"And, as Freud's case study of the 'Rat Man' indicates, epistemophilia can in some people become something far more obsessive and desperate than normal intellectual endeavour." - Bran Nicol, in Literature and Psychology, 1999

About the Word:

Epistemophilia is formed by combining the New Latin roots epistemo- and -philia (meaning 'understanding, knowledge' and 'love of,' respectively). What could go wrong with having a love of knowledge? An epistemophiliac has a little too much love. You know the type.

Definition:

: a stretching and stiffening especially of the trunk and extremities (as when fatigued and drowsy or after waking from sleep)

Example:

"It first threatens by the usual warnings of sense of coldness, alternating with heat, pandiculation and yawning; and with sometimes a higher degree of exhilaration of spirits." - Robert Hamilton, Remarks on Hydrophobia, 1798

About the Word:

Some people find, when waking in the morning, that the first thought that comes to mind is an unwelcome one; something to do with the onerous tasks that lie ahead in the day, or the regrettable choices that were made the night before. No more! Now, when you open your eyes and stretch sleep-stiffened limbs you can instead think 'there's a word for that...'

Definition:

: a comprehensive conception or apprehension of the world especially from a specific standpoint

Example:

"... but as your weltanschauung failed, your world view, the Marxist millennium, so has my stomach... It is the oyster in the shell that has done for me." - Howard Brenton, "H.I.D. (Hess Is Dead)" in The Theatre of the Holocaust, 1999

About the Word:

No list of unnecessarily long words would be complete without an entrant from German, a language which often appears to exist in order to create such creatures. Weltanschauung has been in use in English since 1868, and serves your purpose for when you need to describe your outlook on the world while conveying a certain Teutonic je ne sais quoi.

Definition:

: a system of inheritance by which the youngest son or sometimes daughter or collateral heir succeeds to the estate

Example:

"In other regions of the country, families followed postremogeniture, in which the youngest son received a larger share of the bequest!" - Peter A. Diamond and Jonathan Skinner, in Death and Dollars, 2003

About the Word:

Postremogeniture, which is also known as ultimogeniture (although it seems rare enough that the need for a synonym is questionable) should not be confused with primogeniture, which is the practice of passing along all the best things to the eldest child. You are unlikely to encounter this word outside of a dictionary or law textbook, but if you feel the need to inject it into conversation it might be of figurative use when describing your feeling that your parents really love your younger siblings more than they love you.

The Longest English Word?
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opposites-gruntle

Words Better Known by Their Opposites

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis

: a pneumoconiosis caused by the inhalation of very fine silicate or quartz dust and occurring especially in miners

Example:

"Miss Carol Lee Sutherland's seventh-grade class at J. E. B. Stuart School is learning to spell a 45-letter word. It's pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. It's a lung disease." - The Virginian-Pilot, 23 March 1962

About the Word:

Weighing in at a hefty 19 syllables and 45 letters, pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is often referred to as the longest word in the English language, on the basis that it is the longest word found in the largest dictionary (the 20-volume Second Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary). It is often referred to as an 'invented word,' which may be a bit confusing, since all words had to have been invented at some point of other. The difference here is that pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis was thought to have been invented by the president of the National Puzzlers' League (a group of crossword puzzle aficionados), one Everett Smith, and was meant to imitate a very long medical term. You can say it's the longest word in the language if you want, but you should know that doctors don't actually use this word, and will probably laugh at you if you do.




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