ses-kwê-pê-day-lyên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Containing many syllables or prosodic feet, as a sesquipedalian poem. 2. Inclined to use such words in speech or writing.
Notes: Today's Good Word is a very good example of itself: sesquipedalian contains six syllables, which is a lot for an English word. Sesquipedalian words are characterized by sesquipedality and those who use long words are guilty of sesquipedalianism. It is way too late to speak of a sesquipedalian board, even though the original meaning of this word was "a foot and a half (long)".
In Play: Sesquipedalian words are not to be feared or revered but used with precision when necessary, as in "Curly Hair can wax sesquipedalian or pedestrian depending on whom he's selling his ideas to." Sesquipedalian speech is usually associated with a higher level of education: "My prof just gave me another one of his sesquipedalian lectures on the virtues of turning my homework in on time."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes from a phrase coined by the Latin poet Horace, sesquipedalia verba "words of one and a half (poetic) feet". The adjective here is made up of sesqui- "one and a half" + pedalis "related to feet". Sesqui is a contraction of semis "half" + que "and, also", and also turns up in sesquicentennial "150 year (century and a half) celebration". Latin pedalis "pertaining to a/the foot" is from pes, pedis "foot", also seen in English pedal and pedestrian. The original Proto-Indo-European word for "foot" was pod-/ped- which became English foot and also appears in fetlock and fetter. The Greek reflex of the same root, pous, podes, is visible in octopus (8 feet), tripod (3 feet), and podiatrist. (Our gratitude today goes to Eric Birdsall who footed the costs of getting today's Good Word to us.)