Category Archives: greek derivations

Osseocarnisanguineoviscericartilaginonervomedullary

In Thomas Love Peacock’s satirical novel Headlong Hall (1816) there appear two high-flown nonce words (one-off coinages) which describe the human body by stringing together adjectives describing its various tissues. The first is based on Greek words, and the second on the Latin equivalents; they are osteosarchaematosplanchnochondroneuromuelous (44 letters) and osseocarnisanguineoviscericartilaginonervomedullary (51 letters), which translate roughly as ‘of bone, flesh, blood, organs, gristle, nerve, and marrow’.

An alternate spelling of the latter is osseocarnisanguinioviscericartilaginonervomedullary.

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Ornicopytheobibliopsychocrystarroscioaerogenethliometeoroaustrohieroanthropoichthyopyrosiderochpnomyoalectryoophiobotanopegohydrorhabdocrithoaleuroalphitohalomolybdoclerobeloaxinocoscinodactyliogeolithopessopsephocatoptrotephraoneirochyroonychodactyloarithstichooxogeloscogastrogyrocerobletonooenoscapulinaniac

The longest word in the English language, excluding non-technical and/or medical terms, which has a history of at least 3 years and has many mentions, is Ornicopytheobibliopsychocrystarroscioaerogenethliometeoroaustrohieroanthropoichthyopyrosiderochpnomyoalectryoophiobotanopegohydrorhabdocrithoaleuroalphitohalomolybdoclerobeloaxinocoscinodactyliogeolithopessopsephocatoptrotephraoneirochyroonychodactyloarithstichooxogeloscogastrogyrocerobletonooenoscapulinaniac.

Researching its history, it supposedly was mentioned in Russell Ash’s “Top 10 of Everything” books. According to Russell, it was published in ‘The Omnibus Believe it or Not!’ (London: C. Arthur Pearson – undated, but c. 1935), page 276. It also seems to have been mentioned in a Ripley’s Believe It or Not book, c. 2007, ISBN 0-439-82598-9.

It got a popular revival on blogs in October and November of 2004 when a story went around stating one Aaron Zweig, of Randolph, New Jersey, who was 9 years old at the time, spelled the word correctly. He was challenged by his teacher, Ruth Kalata, to memorize the word and to come back when he learned it. According to some websites, Ms. Kalata said that “last year, the boy learned to spell two, extremely long words, antidisestablishmentarianism and supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. But the two words with 34 and 28 letters, respectively, were puny compared with the latest challenge.

It apparently was coined as an exercise in demonstrating the extent to which the English language is capable of forming extremely lengthy words. Most of the word is filled with various Latin and Greek prefixes regarding divinatory practices. According to some, the literal translation of the word is “A deluded human who practices divination or forecasting by means of phenomena, interpretation of acts or other manifestations related to the following animate or inanimate objects and appearances: birds, oracles, Bible, ghosts, crystal gazing, shadows, air appearances, birth stars, meteors, winds, sacrificial appearances, entrails of humans and fishes, fire, red-hot irons, altar smoke, mice, barley, salt, lead, dice, arrows, hatchet balance, sieve, ring suspension, random dots, precious stones, pebbles, pebble heaps, mirrors, ash writing, dreams, palmistry, nail rays, finger rings, numbers, book passages, name letterings, laughing manners, ventriloquism, circle walking, wax, susceptibility to hidden springs, wine and shoulder blades”. If anyone can verify or rebuke that, please leave a comment. It supposedly is a list of a set of words ending in “-mancy”, such as theomancy, bibliomancy, austromancy, etc. It is also said to be derived from a set of similar words in Roget’s Thesaurus under the heading of “Prediction”.

Depending on the spelling variation, it has approximately 300 letters.

Its spelling variations include Ornicopytheobibliopsychcrystarroscioaerogenethliometeoroaustrohieroanothropoichthyopryrosiderochpnomyoalectryoophiobotanopegohydrorhabdocrithoaleuroalphitohalomolybdoclerobeloaxinocoscinodactyliogeolithonpessopsephrocatoptrotephraoneirochoonychodactyloarithstichooxogeloscogastrogyrocerobletonooenoscapulinaniac, Ornicopytheobibliopsychocrystarroscioaerogenethliometeoroaustrohieroanthropoichthyopyrosiderochpnomyoalectryoophiobotanopegobydrorhabdocrithoaleuroalphitohalomolybdoclerobeloaxinocoscinodactyliogeolithopessopsephocatoptrotephraoneirochiroonychodactyloarithstichooxogeloscogastrogyrocerobletonooenosapulinaniac, and Ornicopytheobibliopsychocrystarroscioaerogenethliometeoroaustrohierroanthropoichthyoophiobotanopegohydrorhabdocrithoaleuroalphitohalomolybdoclerobeloaxinocoscinodactyliogeolithopessopsephocatoptrotephraoneirochiroonychodactyloarithstichooxogeloscogastrogyrocerobletonooenoscapulinaniac.

There are some misconceptions about this word. First and foremost- the word was not used in the middle ages or in medieval times. Second- that the boy spelling the word was in a spelling bee. He was not; it was simply a challenge by a teacher.

The only sources I could find have been online; if anyone comes across or knows of a source in print, please let me know- I am trying to find a definitive answer as to where it was in print and the spelling of the word in print. It supposedly has been printed in sources as diverse as The New York Times, The New York Post, The Randolph Reporter (Randolph Township, New Jersey), and The Metro (UK), plus the aforementioned books, but I have not been able to find an actual printed source. If anyone has any leads, please leave a comment.

Sources:

http://our-community.org.uk/index.php?showtopic=3759

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Longest_word_in_English#very.2C_very_long_medieval_word

http://xo.typepad.com/blog/2004/11/img_alt_srchttp_174.html

http://www.repairmanjack.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-2847.html

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4159/is_20041128/ai_n12763491

http://msgboard.snopes.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=95;t=000789;p=1

http://www.spursreport.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-21417.html

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