Printable Version
Pronunciation: æn-tai-dis-es-tæ-blish-min-ter-i-ên-iz-êm Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: 1. Opposition to the disestablishment or disenfranchisement of an official church, especially the Church of England; the belief that a nation should have an official church or support of official status for the Church of England. 2. Opposition to the disestablishment of any organization or relationship.

Notes: Today's Good Word has been used far more frequently as an example of the longest word in English (28 letters) than it has been in expressing opposition to dissolving the official relation of the Church of England to the state. It spawned a host of competitors, each sillier than the previous:

  • floccinaucinihilipilification "constantly estimating things to be worthless" (29 letters)
  • supercalifragilisticexpialidocious "fantastic" (34 letters)
  • pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, a supposed lung disease (45 letters)
Although some of these words appear in dictionaries, none have ever been used in conversations or publications other than dictionaries or discussions of long words.

In Play: Whenever talk of dissolving an organization arises, there is no reason, other than the length it would add to the discussion, why we should not use today's Good Word: "The disestablishmentarians, who wanted to dissolve the garden club outright, were overwhelmed by a surge of antidisestablishmentarianism among the membership."

Word History: This early (and, perhaps, only legitimate) contender for the longest word in English is made up of five affixes: (1) two prefixes anti- "against" and dis- "un-" and (2) three suffixes -ment "result of", -arian "person related to" and -ism "belief in". At the root of it we find establish, a word borrowed from Old French establir (establiss-) "to set up, establish", Modern French's établir. Old French didn't like words beginning with S + a consonant, so it added an E to the beginning of Latin stabilire "to stabilize", a word created from the adjective stabilis "stable, firm". There are too many relatives of this word to catalog here; suffice it to say that it is related to English stand and most words beginning in STA that refer to standing or firmness. (We are happy that Harry Murphy established himself among our contributors by suggesting today's extensive Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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