Posted in Word Wednesday

Word Wednesday: Sesquipedalian



adjective | ses·qui·pe·da·lian \ˌses-kwə-pə-ˈdāl-yən\


  1. Having many syllables
  2. given to, or characterized by the use of long words


mid 17th century: from Latin.

Horace, the Roman poet known for his satire, was merely being gently ironic when he cautioned young poets against using “sesquipedalia verba”-“words a foot and a half long”-in his book Ars poetica, a collection of maxims about writing. But in the 17th century, English literary critics decided the word sesquipedalian could be very useful for lambasting writers using unnecessarily long words.

Your Latin Lesson:

Latin sesquipedalis, literally, a foot and a half long

from sesqui- “half as much again”
+ ped-, pes “foot”

Did You Know?

Words that Rhyme with Sesquipedalian: Episcopalian, tatterdemalion, Australian, bacchanalian.

A sesquiquadrate is an 135-degree angle.

A sesquicentennial is a period of 150 years.

A sesquinona in music, is an interval having the ratio or 9:10—that is, a lesser major second.


Sesquipedalian cartoons © Mickey Bach Word-A-Day


Posted in Word Wednesday

Word Wednesday: Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis



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