|Students of German seem to enjoy trying to
find the "longest German word." More than most other
languages, German tends to string words together to form new
vocabulary. All languages, including English, do this to
some extent, but German really likes to create long words.
As Mark Twain said, "Some German words are so long that they
have a perspective."
German can do this because its
grammar allows words to be strung together to form one
lengthy term that English and other languages usually break
up into several words. The classic longest German word is
Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän, which in
English becomes four words: "Danube steamship company
captain." But that German word has a mere 41 letters (42
with German spelling reform, which adds another f to the "schifffahrt"
element), while some longest-word candidates run as long as
But is there really such a thing as the longest
German word... das längste deutsche Wort? Some of the
suggested "longest" words are artificial creations, never
used in daily spoken or written German. German numbers and
scientific terms also come into the running, but a word
chosen in 1999 as the longest word for that year (see below)
was a "legal" word in the true sense of the term, since it
referred to a law for labeling meat. But even if we accept
that 63-letter word, a German-speaking person could go a
very long time without ever having to read it, much less use
it! For all practical purposes this longest-word contest is
really just a game. It's more fun than practical. (Even a
German or English Scrabble board only has room for 15
letters.) But if you'd like to play the longest-word game,
here are a few selected items to consider.
Lange deutsche Wörter
Long German Words
Words listed in alphabetical order (with gender,
(die, 41 letters) "regulation requiring a
prescription for an anesthetic"
bauunterbeamtengessellschaft (one word, no hyphen)
(die, 80 letters) "association of subordinate
officials of the head office management of the Danube
steamboat electrical services" (the name of a pre-war club
in Vienna) - Not really useful, this word is more of a
desperate attempt to lengthen the word below.
(der, 41 letters) "Danube steamship company captain"
(die, plur., 39 letters) "legal protection insurance
According to Guinness, this was the longest German
dictionary word in everyday usage, but the word below is a
longer legitimate, official "longest word" — in
(das, 63 letters) "beef labeling regulation &
delegation of supervision law"
This was a 1999 German Word of the Year, and it also won a
special award as the longest German word for that year. It
refers to a "law for regulating the labeling of beef" - all
in one word, which is why it is so long. German also likes
abbreviations, and this word has one: ReÜAÜG.
German Numbers - Zahlen
Another reason why there really isn't a single longest
German word: German numbers, long or short, are written as
one word. For example, to say or write the number 7,254, not
really a very long number, the German is...
siebentausendzweihundertvierundfünfzig, a single word
of 38 letters. Larger numbers would, of course, make even
longer German words.
Longest English Word
Just for comparison, what about English? The longest word
in English is not "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" (an
invented word). Just as in German, there is disagreement
about the actual longest word, but English can't keep pace
with German in this department.
(28 letters) a legitimate dictionary word from the 19th
century meaning "opposition to the separation of church and
(45 letters) "lung disease caused by breathing in silica
dust" - Linguists claim this is an artificial word, and it
does not deserve true "longest word" billing.
Technical words: There are many English technical and
medical terms that qualify as long words, but they are
usually excluded from the longest-word game.
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