Archive | May 2013

30-Second Word Whoop: “Sesquipedalian”

the-longest-word-in-europe-is-longest-word-europe-audio-letters-wordsThis site is no We prefer to “riff” on words rather than act as an authority or stretch your vocabulary. Still, sometimes we run into a stretttttttttchy word like “sesquipedalian” that stops us short.

“Sesquipedalian” may sound like a six-footed monster or belabored joke, but surprise! The definition:

1. given to using long words.

2. (of a word) containing many syllables.

3. a sesquipedalian word.

Literally, it means “a foot and a half long.” Let’s break it down: sesqui- comes directly from the Latin sesqui (“one and a half”); + pedal, from Latin pedis, form of pes (“foot”), + adjective suffix –alis or in this case -ian.

In order for “sesquipedalian” to be truly a foot and a half long, it would have to be written in 74-point type. I know, because I tested it.

Sesquipedalian is not a great Twitter word. At 14 characters, it would take up a tenth of your tweet. You’d think I could get away with tweeting out 10 sesquipedalians at once but, because of spaces, Twitter restricts me to eight. It works without spaces, but it’s a little hard to read that way. I know, because I tested it.

(UPDATE: That tweet, by the way, has become my most favorited tweet by dozens of strangers worldwide. Who knew there were so many on Twitter thirsty for long words?)


2013 photo by Terry Byrne

In Scrabble, sesquipedalian technically would be worth 26 points at face value — who knows how many more taking bonus spaces into account. But it would have to be built on successive turns. Don’t think you could start with “quip”; you’d have to start with “pedal.” Then the next person could play “ian” in back, which is a stand-alone word, so you could clean up with “qui” in front and “ses” in back.

Of course, you are what words you use. Meaning: using the word “sesquipedalian” could make you it. Nyah-nyah.