University of Virginia
What’s your favorite word and why?
Floccinaucinihilipilification [flok-suh-naw-suh-nahy-hil-uh-pil-uh-fi-key-shuh n] (noun) - The action or habit of estimating something as worthless.
As long as written languages have existed, curious words have been nestled in the pages of out-of-the-way texts. In English, words such as set (with the most definitions of any word, at 464), rhythms (the longest word with no vowels) and abbreviated (why is it so long?), have fascinated logophiles (lovers of words) for centuries. As an avid reader and former Latin student, I have always considered floccinaucinihilipilification to be my favorite word due to its origin, length, and unique definition.
In the 18th century, one page of the book Eton Latin Grammar listed several synonymous stems, “flocci, nauci, nihili, pili,” all roughly translating as “of little value.” After one schoolboy of Eton College concatenated the stems and added -tion to the end (purportedly as a joke), he breathed life into floccinaucinihilipilification. The word achieved prominence as the longest non-technical word in English.
The word first caught my eye for its utter absurdity, excess syllables, and novel backstory, but it has remained my favorite for other reasons. I have observed that the definition of...
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