Das Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz. The previous strand of letters, that you skipped without even attempting to read, might seem like me simply bashing away at my keyboard, but in fact, this is a German word. Yes, a SINGLE German word. One of the longest German words. It means “beef labeling regulation and delegation of supervision law.” As you can see, the German word kind of unfolded into a number of English words that form a phrase, instead of a single English word.
Most languages, including English, mash up words together to create new ones. A boathouse is a house for boats, you get the idea. German do this too, except they take it to a whole other level. As Mark Twain famously said: “Some German words are so long that they have a perspective.”
So with that in mind, can there even be such a thing as the longest German word? Well, no, because there will always be another complex phrase that Germans will try to condense into a single monstrously long word.
These extremely long words are very rarely ever used in real life, if at all. At this point, the idea of long German words has become more of a game. It’s more fun than actual useful German and the German language is simply the perfect medium to create these tongue twisters (or Zungenbrecher i.e. tongue breakers as they say in German). In fact, these words are so unuseful, you won’t even be able to use them to win scrabble, as the board can only take 15 letters!
But no matter how intimidating these words might seem to non-German speakers, you have to admire how simplistic they really are in nature. It’s like Lego (the European version of lincoln blocks), and short words are their building blocks. “Sticklebrick words” is how the writer Anna Funder described this concept in her book Stalisand: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall where she says “I liked the sticklebrick nature of it, building long supple words by putting short ones together. Things could be brought into being that had no name in English.”
Understanding that Sticklebrick concept is essential to be able to understand every long compound German word you come across. Always look for that central primary word that everything else is hanging on. For example if you look at the word Windschutzscheibenwischer and break it up into four parts, you’ll get Wind – wind, Schutz – protection, Wischer -wiper and Scheibe – window pane. So translating the entire word in English gives us wind-protetion-(glass)pane-wiper, which is a pretty accurate way of describing a windshield wiper. The pronunciation also works in the same way, just break down the word part and pronounce the parts one after the other. Beautiful, isn’t it?
As much as I’d like to have you believe that it will always be that simple, that’s sadly not always the case, as many of these long compound words can’t be translated literally. For example, Warteschlange is not a waiting snake, but rather a queue, which seen from above, pretty much looks like a snake, wouldn’t you agree? And Glühbirne is not a glowing pear, but a lightbulb. But you get the image, right? It admittedly takes a bit of Abstraktionsvermögen (i.e. the ability to abstract) to get the meaning of such words from merely translating their elemental words and then putting them together.
So just keep this in mind when the literal translation doesn’t make sense, and try to use context it was used in to guess the meaning of the word or go into free association and ask e.g. what does look like a pear and glows?
Now that you know why German words can get so long, and how the complexity is really just an illusion, let’s go through a list of 25 German words that are hilariously long and (almost) entirely useless.
Try to guess the meaning of each of them before reading the translation and tell me in the comments if you got any of them right!
One thing that you need to know before you start is that any compound noun in German has to be read from right to left as the last word in such a word combo always gives away what the word is all about. In the examples above that was Gesetz (a law) and Scheibe (a glass pane). With the given context, that often suffices to understand what is being said. Now here we go. Enjoy the beautfy of the German language:
Can you even pronounce that with one breath? Because I couldn’t. 79 letters. What kind of madman would even use this in real life? Right, no one. Even the translation is a doozy; association of subordinate officials of the head office management of the Danube steamboat electrical services. Try saying that ten times (at your own risk). This insane 79 letter word is the name of a pre-war club in Vienna and it’s not actually as useful as it is a desperate attempt at making the second word on this list longer. Remember: it’s the last word that gives away the main information. Hence, this is about some sort of society (Gesellschaft).
In classic German, this is considered to be the longest word. It’s not really useful to anyone though, as it means “Danube steamship company captain”. This bad boy stands at a whopping 42 letters.
This 39 letter beauty is a word you actually have a chance at pronouncing easily if you take it one syllable at a time. This word means “legal protection insurance companies.” And it happens to be the longest German word in everyday use according to Guinness World Records. However, the next word on the list is the actual longest official word that’s not uncommonly used in everyday German.
Ah, we meet again. In case you didn’t notice (I won’t blame you, I wouldn’t have read it either), this is the same 63-letter word from the very start of the article. And as I mentioned earlier, it means “beef labeling regulation and delegation of supervision law.” In 1999, this word was German Word of the Year. It also won a special award for being the longest German word of the year. Since this word is actually used sometimes in everyday life by very few individuals, Germans have come up with an abbreviation for it: ReÜAÜG.
This 41-letter puzzle of a word can be really difficult to read, and its meaning is just as disorienting: “regulation requiring a prescription for an anesthetic.” Can you guess which one of the many words included in the above German compound noun means “regulation”?
Seeing a word as short as 30 letters must be an ironic relief, but don’t let its brevity fool you, this word is almost just as useless as any other on this list as it means “head district chimney sweep master.”
As David Sedaris said in his article about learning German on the New Yorker, this 22-letter word is roughly another option you could use instead of “lover” or “partner” but with a temporary twist, as it literally means “the person I am with in this phase of my life.
As I mentioned earlier, Twain was fascinated, though a bit irritated, by how long German words can get, and he documented his frustrations in his book A Tramp Abroad. In his book, he notes this term as meaning “independencedeclarations”, which is just a mashed up version of the Declaration of Independence.
In keeping with Twain’s frustrations, this “clumsy” word, as he describes it, is one that even an English speaker can break down and understand easily. Freund simply means friend and the word as a phrase means “demonstrations of friendship.” Quite the positive meaning for a word that’s described as “clumsy.”
This happens to be the longest German word according to the Duden German Dictionary, and it’s one you better learn to pronounce if you ever want to get started in insurance. Because it means “motor vehicle liability insurance.”
In German, even numbers get the glued-lego, sticklebrick, compound-word treatment, as the cumbersome word you just read simply means 7.254. All those letters just to say 7.254? Honestly, I’m starting to question whether this system is the best out there as well. But one thing I’m sure of is that it’s the most fun.
You thought the first number was long? You’re in for a treat. This compound word is an insane 65 letters and it’s another number, a really cool number in fact. If you try to break it down into parts you’ll notice that there are a lot of sevens and you’d be correct, as this number is 777,777. By the way: Germans don’t really use the comma to break up longer numbers, they use a full stop. So 777,777 would actually be 777.777 in German. A German would read 777,777 as 777.777 which can make quite a difference when you see that amount on your paycheck.
This modern-era word stands at a comparatively modest 49 letters, and like most of the other words on this list, it has a very VERY specific meaning. It translates to “social insurance broker trainee.”
This unique tongue twister has 46 letters in it and it really makes me appreciate just how efficient German is in condensing information into a shorter form, as the English translation is even more long-winded: “companies providing mass communications services”.
This 31 letter word means “food intolerance.” Yes. 31 letters. Just to say food intolerance. I’ll be honest, the word itself is giving me intolerance. You know what, this word got me questioning what I said earlier about German being efficient at condensing information. I’m starting to think Germans just like messing with non-German speakers by making random words incredibly long.
This 31-letter puzzle of a word is surprisingly short if you compare it to what it means in English. This German tongue twister translates to “Worker Accident Insurance Act”. Even the English translation needs another translation.
While this word isn’t even close to how long the other words on this list got, you might find this 18 letter word extra useful, especially on those days when someone won’t stop annoying you and you want to express your discontent. Backpfeifengesicht roughly translates to “a face in need of a fist.” As fun as this word is, I hope you don’t find a use for it too often.
- Innerer Schweinehund
Much like the previous word, this compound word is also a fun one. It literally means “inner pig dog”, but in practice, you can use this long word to talk about your “inner beast” or the “devil inside you”. Now that’s a word you can use when you need that extra bit of motivation to unleash your inner beast.
If making this list has taught me anything, it’s that you can always depend on bureaucracy and economics to come up with the longest words and the most mind twisting concepts. And this German word is no different, sitting at a proud 31 letters, it means “life insurance company.” Good luck trying to pronounce this one.
If you are the “garbage collector at the back of the truck”, which is the meaning of this word, you are going to need a really large name tag to wear, as this 25 letter (inofficial) job title definitely will not fit on a normal one.
This modest 18-letter German word doesn’t stack up to others on this list, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to translate. It literally means “mother soul alone”, but in practice it has a really unique meaning which makes it a really special word. Mutterseelenallein means the mother of all loneliness, and I hope you don’t ever find yourself needing to use this word.
So far, most of the words on this list have been long because they either mean something very specific that’s difficult to translate, or because they refer to a very complex concept. Not this 24 letter word though. This one means “matchbox”. A box for storing matches, nothing special about it, it just takes Germans 24 letters to say matchbox. Fun fact: even native Germans suffer when they try to pronounce this one, so if you learn it, your German friends will probably be impressed.
The shortest word on this list is something you probably have experienced if you kept delaying work until you had little time to do it. This fun 16 letter word means “last-minute panic” or literally the panic you get when you see the gates of the city close before you. Make sure you always stay on schedule, so you never have Torschlusspanik. Be careful though: even Germans will often wrongly write and say this as Torschusspanik (without the L) which would be the panic of scoring a goal in soccer. Quite a different thing, right?
This 31 letter word refers to a shop that you’d visit if your new house floor needs sanding. It translates to “shop that lends floor sanding machines”, and it’s this point, it’s not even surprising that German has a specific word just for that type of shop.
Finishing our list is this admirable 51-letter word that won the Austrian Word of the Year in 2016. It translates to “deferral of the second iteration of the federal presidential run-off election”, and reading its meaning makes me want to call my lawyer so he can explain it to me. Yet again, bureaucracy didn’t fail me with its ability to produce lengthy words.
Enough German words for today?
And I bet you used to think “congratulations” was long. German definitely takes the cake when it comes to long words.
I hope your eyes didn’t hurt trying to tell apart all the letters in the words, but what definitely won’t hurt your eyes is this much easier German course.
My favorite word from the list has to be Backpfeifengesicht. It’s just so expressive and punchy.
Written by Abdullah
What is the longest German word ever? ›
1. Kraftfahrzeug-Haftpflichtversicherung (36) Officially recognised by the Duden - Germany's pre-eminent dictionary - as the longest word in German, Kraftfahrzeug-Haftpflichtversicherung is a 36-letter, tongue-tying way of describing a rather, mundane everyday concept: motor vehicle liability insurance.What is the longest German word in everyday use? ›
Those getting started in insurance must have to practice their pronunciations outside the office, because the longest word listed in the Duden German dictionary also belongs to the industry. It means "motor vehicle liability insurance."
So the longest word to be found in the German dictionary is Kraftfahrzeughaftpflichtversicherung – "motor vehicle indemnity insurance". As Mark Twain said "a word so long it has a perspective".What is the longest German word 63 letters? ›
Sometimes, they even show up in the real world. The longest word in the German language—the 63-letter-long Rindfleischetikettierungsueberwachungsaufgabenuebertragungsgesetz—was created to represent a law about beef regulation.What is the hardest German word? ›
1. Eichhörnchen (Squirrel) Although squirrel is also tough to pronounce in English, it's a classic when it comes to difficult German words to pronounce. Many English speakers struggle, and some even consider this the hardest German word to pronounce.What word is longer than Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis? ›
At 80 letters, the longest word ever composed in German is Donaudampfschifffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft, the "Association for Subordinate Officials of the Head Office Management of the Danube Steamboat Electrical Services".What is the longest Russian word? ›
Most likely one of the longest Russian words is a chemical term, тетрагидропиранилциклопентилтетрагидропиридопиридиновая (tetragidropiranilciklopentiltetragidropiridopiridinovaya), which contains 55 letters. It was used in Russian patent RU2285004C2 (granted and published in 2006).What is the 1 longest word in English? ›
In that case, what's the longest word in the English language dictionary? It's pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.What is the longest 45 letter word? ›
The longest word entered in most standard English dictionaries is Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis with 45 letters. Our definition is "a lung disease caused by inhalation of very fine silicate or quartz dust." The entry for this word can be found in our Medical Dictionary.
How many letters long is Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia? ›
If not, you might be facing a case of hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia. Did you figure out what it means? Yes, this 36-letter word means the “fear of long words.” Origins: This technical term was formed by adding Latin prefixes to the root -phobia (fear).What is the longest word in the world 45 letters? ›
1 Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (forty-five letters): A lung disease caused by the inhalation of silica or quartz dust.What word is 1909 letters long? ›
*Wikipedia and a few other sources actually list Methionylglutaminylarginyltyrosylglutamyl... serine, a tryptophan synthetase protein, as the longest published word at 1,909 letters.What is the longest Japanese word? ›
A funny phrase in japanese is “toragahitowokamoutosurutokinounarinow” 虎が人を噛もうとするときのうなり声。 It is 37 letters long and is comprised of a 17 syllables. It is a very odd phrase, as it is defined as “the growl a tiger makes when it is about to about to bite someone”.Why is German word so long? ›
German is definitely known for its ϋber-long words. Many words in the German language are formed by combining two or more words, known in English as compound nouns. The meanings of the individual words have a direct bearing on what the compound noun means. The German language is, thus, very descriptive.What is ß called in English? ›
The German letter ß is a ligature and is also called a “scharfes s” (sharp s). But it's simpler than it sounds–it actually just means “ss”. The best thing about this letter? It sounds exactly like the “s” sound in English!What are German swears? ›
- Quatsch! /ˈkvatʃ/ ...
- Donnerwetter! /ˌdɔnɐ'vɛtɐ/ ...
- Depp! /dɛp/ ...
- verdammt. /fɛɐ̯ˈdamt/ ...
- Scheiße. /ˈʃaɪ̯sə/ ...
- Halt deinen Mund! /halt 'daɪ̯nən mʊnt/ ...
- der Mist. /deːr 'mɪst/ ...
- Leck mich am Arsch! /lɛk mɪç am aʀʃ/
floccinaucinihilipilification (29).What is a 190000 letter word? ›
The longest English word is also the longest word in the world, with almost 190,000 letters. It is the chemical name for titin, the largest protein known. The longest word in the English dictionary however, is the 45-letter word "pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis", which refers to a lung disease.What is the word with 189 819 letters full word? ›
An English word of 189, 819 letters
The longest word in the world is the English term: "methionylthreonylthreonyl(...) isoleucine". This term, which has no less than 189, 819 letters, is the chemical name of the largest protein: titin. It would take three hours to recite it from beginning to end!
What is ß called in German? ›
In German, the ß character is called eszett. It's used in “Straße,” the word for street, and in the expletive “Scheiße.” It's often transliterated as “ss,” and strangely enough, it's never had an official uppercase counterpart. The letter “a” has “A” and “b” has “B,” while ß had… nothing.What is the Z sound in German? ›
The German consonant 'z' is pronounced in the same manner as the English 'ts' sound that is found at the end of words such as 'cats', 'lots' or 'sits'.What are the 4 extra letters in German? ›
German has four special letters; three are vowels accented with an umlaut sign (⟨ä, ö, ü⟩) and one is derived from a ligature of ⟨ſ⟩ (long s) and ⟨z⟩ (⟨ß⟩; called Eszett "ess-zed/zee" or scharfes S "sharp s"), all of which are officially considered distinct letters of the alphabet, and have their own names separate ...What is the longest Korean word? ›
The longest word in Korean is 청자양인각연당초상감모란문은구대접. It is 17 syllable blocks – which doesn't look very long to anyone who doesn't read Korea. But it has 46 Hangul letters – so that's pretty long! It describes a kind of ceramic bowl.What is the longest Italian word? ›
The longest Italian word is a 26-letter-long : Precipitevolissimevolmente (It means "in a way like someone acts very hastily")
Jammu-sang, Lausanne, Jiumei, Tudanchoji Nyima. It is the Chinese character for "biang", and it is made up of 56 pen strokes.What is a 7 letter word without vowels? ›
Not including plurals, there is only one seven-letter word which has none of the five vowels. That word is nymphly, which is a rare variation of 'nymphlike'.What is the longest name of virus? ›
otherwise known as the dreaded tobacco mosaic virus. It appeared in all its lettery splendor in 1964 in a reference source for chemists, "Chemical Abstracts." It is one thousand, one hundred and eighty five letters long.What is the 5 longest words in the world? ›
- Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (45 letters) ...
- Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (36 letters) ...
- Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (34 letters) ...
- Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism (30 letters) ...
- Floccinaucinihilipilification (29 letters)
Aequeosalinocalcalinoceraceoaluminosocupreovitriolic. This is the longest word in English which is composed of seven words. This 52-letter word was coined by Dr. Edward Strother to describe the spa waters in Bath, England.
What are the 20 difficult words? ›
Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is the longest word entered in the most trusted English dictionaries. The definition is "a lung disease caused by inhalation of very fine silicate or quartz dust."What is the fear of death called? ›
Thanatophobia is an extreme fear of death or the dying process. You might be scared of your own death or the death of a loved one. Psychotherapy can help most people overcome this disorder. Appointments 866.588.2264. Request an Appointment.What is the 3 hour word? ›
Methionylthreonylthreonylglutaminylarginyl… isoleucine is the chemical name for the protein of “titin” also known as “connectin.” The largest known protein that consists of 26, 926 amino acids is made up of 189, 819 letters and can take about three hours to pronounce.Is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious the longest word in english? ›
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is it real and the longest word in the dictionary? Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is a real word but is not the longest word in the dictionary. Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is the longest word in the dictionary.Is there a word without a vowel? ›
The words without vowels are why, hmm, hymn, xlnt, wynd, myths, thy, dry, cyst, etc.What is the longest letter ever? ›
Longest letter to an editor The Upper Dauphin Sentinel of Pennsylvania, USA published a letter of 25,513 words over eight issues from August to November 1979; it was written by John Sultzbaugh of Lykens, Pennsylvania.What starts with P and ends with E? ›
Q: What starts with "P", ends with "E", and has millions of letters? A: The "Post Office"!What one word has all 26 different letters in it? ›
An English pangram is a sentence that contains all 26 letters of the English alphabet. The most well known English pangram is probably “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”.What is the longest 1 syllable word? ›
Scraunched and the archaic word strengthed, each 10 letters long, are the longest English words that are only one syllable long. Nine letter monosyllabic words are scratched, screeched, scrounged, squelched, straights, and strengths.
What is the longest Spanish word? ›
The 24-letter word electroencefalografistas, plural of electroencefalografista, means 'electroencephalographists' or 'electroencephalographers': specialists in the brain measurement technology of electroencephalography (EEG).Is 10000 Japanese words enough? ›
About 10,000 words will give you a high level of competence. You will still need to look up a lot of words if you read a novel, but you will be able to get the gist of almost anything you read or hear.What is the longest Greek word? ›
392 BC) Aristophanes coined the 173-letter word Lopadotemachoselachogaleokranioleipsanodrimhypotrimmatosilphioparaomelitokatakechymenokichlepikossyphophattoperisteralektryonoptekephalliokigklopeleio-lagoiosiraiobaphetraganopterygon, a fictional food dish consisting of a combination of fish and other meat.How many words exist in German? ›
The German language consists of about 5.3 million words – with a rising trend. About one third of those words was added in the last 100 years.Why does German sound angry? ›
Fricatives are used quite frequently in German. Think the “ch” from the word “ich” or the “sch” in “Schule”. English speakers seem to perceive the “ch” in particular as a very harsh sound, perhaps because producing it involves creating a lot of friction in the mouth and this sound is not found in English.What's the shortest word in the world? ›
The shortest word is a. Some might wonder about the word I since it consists of one letter, too. In sound, a is shorter because it is a monophthong (consists of one vowel), while I is a diphthong.What is the longest German word dampfschiff? ›
In classic German, this is considered to be the longest word. It's not really useful to anyone though, as it means “Danube steamship company captain”. This bad boy stands at a whopping 42 letters.
|attire||Aufscchmuck; Putz; Schmuck|
|decoration||Aufscchmuck; Putz; Schmuck|
|finery||Aufscchmuck; Putz; Schmuck|
|plaster||Gips; Kalk; Putz; Stuck|
It's a technical word referring to the lung disease more commonly known as silicosis. Despite being in the dictionary, the word was originally made up by the president of the National Puzzlers' League.
The German consonant 'z' is pronounced in the same manner as the English 'ts' sound that is found at the end of words such as 'cats', 'lots' or 'sits'.
Can Germans pronounce t? ›
The German consonant 't' is pronounced in a similar manner to its English equivalent, although slightly less air is released in its articulation. In both languages, the sound is an alveolar plosive, which means that it is made with the blade of the tongue pressing against the alveolar ridge.What is the long German word for Jeep? ›
The classic longest German word is Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän, clocking in with 42 letters. In English, it becomes four words: "Danube steamship company captain." However, it's not the only super long word in the German language and, technically, it's not even the longest.What does Schnuckiputzi mean? ›
(mein) Schnuckiputzi / Schnucki. (my) sweetie pie, darling.What is a mensch German? ›
In the literal sense, Mensch translates to mean 'Human'. However; it is not always used in this way alone. It can also be an interjection in conversation, especially when something catches you off guard. It has also been adopted in day-to-day speech as a way of expressing surprise at a situation, positive or negative.What is dingleberry in German? ›
Klabusterbeere f (genitive Klabusterbeere, plural Klabusterbeeren, diminutive Klabusterbeerchen n ) (slang) dingleberry (US English) / clingon (British English) (dried fecal matter adhering to anal hair)