floccinaucinihilipilification

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English

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Etymology

A jocular coinage, apparently by pupils at Eton, combining a number of roughly synonymous Latin stems. The word was inspired by a line in the Eton Latin Grammar that listed verbs that govern a genitive noun: "Flocci, nauci, nihili, pili, assis, hujus, teruncii, his verbis, aestimo, pendo, facio, peculiariter adduntur."[1] Latin flocci, from floccus, a wisp or piece of wool + nauci, from naucum, a trifle + nihili, from the Latin pronoun, nihil (nothing) + pili, from pilus, a hair, something insignificant (all therefore having the sense of "pettiness" or "nothing") + -fication.

Pronunciation

  • IPA(key): /ˌflɒksɪˌnɒsɪˌnɪhɪlɪˌpɪlɪfɪˈkeɪʃən/, /ˌflɒksɪˌnɔːsɪˌnaɪɪlɪˌpɪlɪfɪˈkeɪʃən/
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Noun

floccinaucinihilipilification (uncountable)

  1. (often humorous) The act or habit of describing or regarding something as unimportant, of having no value or being worthless.
    • 1741: William Shenstone, Letters,
      I loved him for nothing so much as his flocci-nauci-nihili-pili-fication of money.
    • 1970: Patrick O'Brian, Master and Commander,
      There is a systematic flocci-nauci-nihili-pilification of all other aspects of existence that angers me.
    • 2000: Raymond J. Chambers, Logic, Law, and Ethics[1]:
      Floccinaucinihilipilification in accounting - does it matter?
    • 2006: Sol Steinmetz, The life of language[2],
      They must be taken with an air of contempt, a floccinaucinihilipilification of all that can gratify the outward man.
    • 2009: Judith Orloff, Emotional Freedom[3]:
      Some people with low self-esteem are prone to floccinaucinihilipilification, the habit of deeming everything worthless.
    • 2011: Bruce Ratner, Statistical and Machine-Learning Data Mining[4]:
      The quasi statistician would doubtlessly not know how to check this supposition, thus rendering the interpretation of the mean profit as floccinaucinihilipilification.

Usage notes

Often cited as the longest non-technical word in the English language, being one letter longer than the commonly cited antidisestablishmentarianism. In the debate on the remuneration of EU staff, Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg used the word on 21st February 2012 making it the longest word ever used in the British House of Commons.

Related terms

Translations

References

  1. ^ The Spectator: 11 June 2011