8

Today I was reading 1 Samuel 5 in the Vulgata and in verse 9 these two words are found:

... circumducentibus ... computrescebant ...

which surprised me for their length (16 and 15 letters respectively). So, which are the longest, attested words in Latin? Is Honorificabilitudinitatibus the longest? (27 letters...horrible word, btw) Which are other examples of very long (say, +25 letters) words?

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    Are you looking for attested words, or are we free to coin new words? In principle one can derive without limits. – Joonas Ilmavirta Nov 22 '18 at 10:41
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    @JoonasIlmavirta Attested words, for sure. I was not aware you could create your own words. Looks like an interesting question itself. – luchonacho Nov 22 '18 at 10:59
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    You can indeed create your own words using existing words and a toolbox of new elements you can add. You can certainly ask a question about that. If you are only looking for attested words here (you could specify that in the question), I won't give an answer about extending words more or less artificially. – Joonas Ilmavirta Nov 22 '18 at 11:02
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    Well, that quickly becomes a question of how to define a word in the first place. There is no official body to decide which words are proper Latin and which are not. There are legitimate ways to derive new words in Latin and they have been used actively through the ages. A number of established Latin words have arisen through derivation from older elements within Latin. But I agree, that's not really what this question is about. – Joonas Ilmavirta Nov 22 '18 at 11:37
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    Aristophanes went a little too far in deriving a new word. Greek is somewhat more flexible with compound words than Latin, though. – Joonas Ilmavirta Nov 22 '18 at 11:39
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Your word, honorificabilitudinitatibus, seems to be commonly regarded as the longest, and it has the distinction of being used by Shakespeare.

However, there's also this one with 28 letters:

floccinaucinihilipilificatio,

which is the action or habit of estimating something as worthless.

Although the latter is longer by one letter, it was coined by students at Eton College as a humorous word. It can be broken down as follows:

floccus (“a wisp”) +‎ naucum (“a trifle”) +‎ nihilum (“nothing”) +‎ pilus (“a hair”) + ficatio

Given that floccinaucinihilipilificatio is of late coinage, I believe that honorificabilitudinitatibus is most likely the winner. Besides being used by Shakespeare, it wasn't coined by him. Rather, it appeared long before his day, such as in the following dictionary entry by Johannes Balbus in 1286:

enter image description here

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    But wait.... the word you mention is an English word. Sure, it's composed of Latin terms, but it seems it's never been used in a Latin context. Maybe the one I mentioned hasn't been either! – luchonacho Nov 22 '18 at 11:02
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    Brilliant find, EB. – Hugh Nov 22 '18 at 15:08
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    To be more accurate, Shakespeare didn't use it, he mentioned it. Or, to put it another way, he used it not to express a meaning, but to put into the mouth of the character Costard in Love's Labour's Lost, for him to cite it as a very long word (again, not to express a meaning). The Balbus is, as you say, a dictionary entry, so he cites the word just to define it, not to use it. And where Balbus spells its -ibus form in full, is this merely to cite it as a very long (longissima) word? What's the longest attested Latin word used to express its meaning, not just cited for its length? – Rosie F Nov 22 '18 at 19:15
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    @RosieF. Either way, we agree that Shakespeare used it. I'm fine with that. – Expedito Bipes Nov 22 '18 at 19:30
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    @ExpeditoBipes Please don't misrepresent me. Read my earlier comment's first two sentences in full, rather than taking a few words from them out of context. – Rosie F Nov 22 '18 at 19:33
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First of all, with all due respect, this word is not Classical Latin; it’s a Medieval Latin neologism (a nonce word) that was occasionally used solely because of its length.

Secondly, honorificabilitudinitatibus is technically a word form, not a word (i.e. it’s not a lexeme).

Afaik, it is first encountered in a treatise written by Peter of Pisa, an eighth century Italian grammarian, who, incidentally, taught Latin to Charlemagne.

Here’s the screenshot:

enter image description here

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4

For what it's worth, the three longest word forms in the Vulgate have 19 letters (http://www.intratext.com/IXT/LAT0001/_FLJ.HTM):

  • praecipitaveruntque (2 Pa. 25:12)
  • sanctificaveruntque (2 Pa. 29:33)
  • praetergrediebantur (Mar. 9:29)
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