Printable Version
Pronunciation: flahk-si-naw-si-ni-hi-li-pi-li-fi-kay-shên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: Considering something to be worthless.

Notes: I know what is on your mind: what is the purpose of a word no one but alphaDictionary's Andrew Shaffer can pronounce? It was, in fact, artificially contrived simply to serve as the longest English word, longer by a letter than the previous champion, antidisestablishmentarianism. Its victory has since been topped by the equally unpronounceable name of a nonexistent disease, pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. Relatives of today's Good Word include a widely unused verb, floccinaucinihilipilificate, and a more approachable noun, floccinaucity [fla-si-naw-s-tee] "a trifle, something of insignificance".

In Play: The word was first recorded in a letter by William Shenstone written in 1741 and unfortunately published in 1777: "I loved him for nothing so much as his flocci-nauci-nihili-pili-fication of money". Notice Shenstone analyzed the word into syllables so that his brain could keep up with them. In its one other, unsyllabified publication, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, it was misspelled: "They must be taken with an air of contempt, a floccipaucinihilipilification of all that can gratify the outward man." So, if you dare use it, remember to syllabify it.

Word History: The 18th-century Eton Latin Grammar contained a rule based on a set of words all of which meant "something of little value": flocci, nauci, nihili, and pili. Some schoolboy, no doubt, lined them up and added the suffix -fication at the end as a joke. Flocci is the plural of floccus "a tuft of wool", pili, the plural of pilus "a hair", nihili is from nihil "nothing," while nauci is a word meaning "worthless". Together they make no sense at all but the word reflects our love of things of record size, which ultimately led to The Guinness Book of Records and the record acts of silliness it still reports.

Dr. Goodword,

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