Long words are like superpowers in that they can be used for good or for evil. If you walk into a college class functioning on three hours of sleep and your professor begins describing the theoretical framework of language using words that you’ve only heard during the semi-finals of spelling bees, that’s an example of long words acting as villains. However, if you find yourself at a party filled with English majors and the cute linguistics nerd in the corner keeps catching your eye, long words can be your best friend. The best part is, not all long words have to do with some obscure medical term that has at least 3 Q’s or silent X’s and can only be used during an extreme Scrabble tournament. Some of them have such simple meanings, they can be used in every day life. Some of them do not. Either way, they’re fun to learn and we should all make a conscious effort to slip them into daily conversation.
Brobdingnagian (adj.): gigantic
First used in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, brobdingnagian means “marked by tremendous size.” Bros are not the only people that can appreciate this word (I say this because I imagine bros getting together with each other and going “hey, look, it says bro in it…ALL RIGHTTTT” with weird Hawaiian accents because that’s how all bros act, right?). You can use it with your friends (Ugh, I have a brobdingnagian pimple on my forehead and I’m going on a date tomorrow). You can use it in class (Professor, I have a brobdingnagian workload this week so I don’t think I’ll be able to present on Monday). You can even use it in essays (Gatsby made a brobdingnagian mistake by falling in love with Daisy).
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (n.): something to say when you have nothing to say; extremely wonderful
While working on the set of Mary Poppins, the Sherman Brothers came up with the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious in less than two weeks. The word’s separate parts come together to mean, according to UrbanDictionary, “any quality that is so indescribable that you have no real word to say it with.” I mean, yeah, you could just say “speechless” but that just doesn’t possess the same level of enthusiasm. It also doesn’t sound as good when you sing it and twirl.
Antidisestablishmentarianism (n.): the doctrine or political position that opposes the withdrawal of state recognition of an established church
I’ve heard this term one too many times in elementary school to not include it in the list. Antidisestablishmentarianism, though not the longest word in the English language (this is the real longest one), is not as intimidating as it looks.
- Disestablishment means “the separation of church and state.”
- Anti-disestablishment means the opposition to the separation of church and state.
- Adding –arian simply allows the word to apply to humans (think “veget-arian”), so in effect, antidisestablishmentarian means a person who opposes the separation of church and state.
- Throw an –ism on the end and wella! We get “an ideology of someone who opposes the separation of church and state.”
Still confused? Well hey, at least I tried. (Breakdown via Wikipedia, not my own brain.)
Misodoctakleidist (n.): someone who hates practicing the piano
Okay, so when I said a lot of these words have simple meanings, I lied. I needed to draw in readers and I was running out of ideas. More of a slang term, misodoctakleidist refers to a pianist with a fear or aversion to practicing. I was always under the impression that most musicians suffered from this, but then again, the only musical experience I have involves playing Three Blind Mice on a recorder, so I’m probably not the most reliable source.
Preantepenultimate (adj.): third from the end
All I can say here is that playground politics would have been much more fun to watch if kids in the kickball lineup were called out with this term. “I want the first kid, the second kid, and the preantepenultimate kid on my team.” Awesome.
Circumbilivagination (v.): to move in a circle or walk around
Despite the multiple opportunities this word provides to giggle at your own immature thoughts, circumbilivagination is not inappropriate in any way, shape or form. (You know what I’m talking about…) This Old English word has the potential to confuse a lot of people, so it would probably be wise not to use this around your parents at the risk of being given “the sex talk” unnecessarily.
Thanatognomonic (adj.): indicative of death
A tumor can be thanatognomonic. That cat that lies on the bed of senior citizens in nursing homes can also be considered thanatognomonic. See? These words are multi-purpose, people.
Image via WheelOfFortuneHistory.com