Human beings are competitive animals by nature. Whether it’s having the tallest skyscraper, the fastest supercomputer, or being the first to Mars, we want to win. With the effect that words have on culture, it’s no surprise that the names of things have also undergone a quiet arms race. From the name of a city that’s much too long to pronounce outside of a public speaking assignment, to a word the length of a novella, let’s take a look at some of the longest names in the world.
No, the keys on my laptop didn’t stick, this is the Maori name of a hill in New Zealand and it also happens to be the longest place name in the English language. It roughly translates to “The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the climber of mountains, the land-swallower who travelled about, played his nose flute to his loved one.” Though the name is undisputedly long enough at 85 letters, there are actually two longer versions of 92 and 105 letters.
As an immature adolescent boy, I always knew there was something suspicious about the name of Thailand’s capital city. As it turns out, I was right. It hasn’t been called Bangkok since 1782, when King Rama moved across the river and founded his new capital. The full name translates to the following and it’s more than a mouthful:
The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city (unlike Ayutthaya) of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn.
This makes it the longest place name in the world. If you happen to be in Thailand, rest assured. Thais typically shorten it to just the first two words (Krung Thep) while the rest of the world keeps ignorantly calling it Bangkok.
Never heard of it? Maybe that’s a good thing. Titin is the largest known protein, consisting of 26,926 amino acids and plays an important role in muscle contraction. Given scientists’ penchant for esoteric behavior, it’s no wonder that its official name as given by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) is too long to practically print in a textbook. If you were ever unfortunate enough to actually have someone attempt to read it to you, you’d be well advised to prepare a pillow and blanket. The IUPAC name happens to be 189,819 letters long, making it the longest word in any language on Earth. You could read Heart of Darkness in the same amount of time.
What are the longest words you’ve ever come across?