Word Wednesday: Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis

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Editor’s Note:
This is the follow up to last week’s Word Wednesday, where I mentioned pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis beat out floccinaucinihilipilification for the longest word in the dictionary.


noun | pneu·mo·no·ul·tra·mi·cro·scop·ic·sil·i·co·vol·ca·no·co·ni·o·sis \ˈn(y)ü-mə-(ˌ)nō-ˌəl-trə-ˌmī-krə-ˈskäp-ik-ˈsil-i-(ˌ)kō-väl-ˈkā-nō-ˌkō-nē-ˈō-səs\

(NOO-muh-noh-UL-truh-MY-kruh-SKOP-ik-SIL -i-koh-vol-KAY-no-KOH-nee-O-sis, nyoo-)


A lung disease caused by inhaling fine particles of silica.


New York Herald Tribune Masthead

The story goes that this word was invented in 1935 by Everett M. Smith, president of the National Puzzlers’ League, at its annual meeting. The word figured in the headline for an article published by the New York Herald Tribune on February 23, 1935, titled “Puzzlers Open 103d Session Here by Recognizing 45-Letter Word”:

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis succeeded electrophotomicrographically as the longest word in the English language recognized by the National Puzzlers’ League at the opening session of the organization’s 103rd semi-annual meeting held yesterday at the Hotel New Yorker. The puzzlers explained that the forty-five-letter word is the name of a special form of silicosis caused by ultra-microscopic particles of silica volcanic dust…

Your Latin Lesson:
From New Latin, from Greek
pneumono- (lung) +
Latin ultra- (beyond, extremely) +
Greek micro- (small) +
-scopic (looking) +
Latin silico (like sand) +
volcano +
Greek konis (dust) +
-osis (condition)

Did You Know?

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis has 45-letters.

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, made famous by Mary Poppins, has 34-letters.

For a shortened version, pneumoconiosis means the same thing, or you can call it silicosis, or black lung.

Image of the New York Herald Tribune courtesy of Andrew Cusack

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