Picture Credit: “Scrabble white letter on blue alphabet”  by Leo Reynolds is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

What is the longest English word in which all the letters are in alphabetical order with no letter repeated? The answer is ALMOST. And in reverse order, the answer is WRONGED.

What is the longest word without any repeated letters?  The answer is SUBDERMATOGLYPHIC (beating UNCOPYRIGHTABLE and DERMATOGLYPHICS).

If you want more fun with words, a good place to go is Collins English Dictionary (here). You will find the longest word (31 letters) listed is dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane – it is the full name of the chemical DDT.  In fact, as you might expect, most of the very long words in the dictionary are scientific terms: the second-longest word is antidisestablishmentarianism (28 letters) followed by electroencephalographically (27 letters). Only slightly shorter, with 24 letters each, are phosphatidylethanolamine (a chemical that occurs in nerve tissue and brain cells) and cholangiopancreatography.

The longest word not containing the letter ‘e’ at 23-letters is transubstantiationalist. This is also the longest non-scientific term and refers to someone who believes in the Roman Catholic doctrine that bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ during the Eucharist.

The most consecutive consonants in a word is six. This occurs in a number of words, the most familiar being catchphrasesightscreen, and watchstrap.

The word euouae (a mnemonic used in medieval music) is the only word to contain six consecutive vowels, and unsurprisingly is the longest word with no consonants in it.  Excluding plurals, there is only one seven-letter word that has none of the five vowels. That word is nymphly.  However, two six-letter words, glycyl and rhythm, can have an ‘s’ added in the plural to make a seven-letter word without a vowel.

Then, how about words that use the vowels in order and only once: facetious and abstemious spring to mind but there are others. For example, make your way to here and you’ll find another 25 words although most of them are uncommon.

Of course, all of those words use the letter ‘y’ as a vowel. The longest words that contain no vowel and no ‘y’ are crwthcwtchphpht and grrrl. The first two of these are borrowed from Welsh and treat the letter ‘w’ as a vowel, while the second two owe their unconventional spelling patterns to attempts to represent spoken grunts and growls.

And how about syzygy. Three uses of the letter y but no real vowels – a word nevertheless.

The longest word composed entirely of letters from the first half of the alphabet is fiddledeedee (12-letters).

The longest words composed entirely of letters from the second half of the alphabet are nonsupport and zoosporous.

 Who ever said English wasn’t fun?

Martin Pollins
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