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Floccinaucinihilipilification (pronounced /ˌflɒksɨˌnɔːsɨˌnaɪ(h)ɪlɨˌpɪlɨfɪˈkeɪʃən/; British English , American English ; variously floccipaucinihilipilification, with p for n) is the estimation of something as worthless, or the habit of doing so.[1] Sometimes written with hyphens, it is frequently cited as one of the longest words in the English language. It has even spawned the back formations floccinaucical "inconsiderable, trifling" and floccinaucity "a matter of small consequence".[1]

Contents

Etymology

The word is derived from a list of Latin words found in a section of the Eton Latin Grammar.[1] The word is said to have been invented as an erudite joke by a student of Eton College, who found in his textbook four ways of saying "don't care" and combined them:[citation needed]

  • flocci facere (from floccus, -i a wisp or piece of wool)
  • nauci facere (from naucum, -i a trifle)
  • nihili facere (from nihilum, -i nothing; something valueless (lit. "not even a thread" from ni+hilum)) Example being: "nihilism"
  • pili facere (from pilus, -i a hair; a bit or a whit; something small and insignificant)

Usage

The first known written instance of floccinaucinihilipilification, as recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary, is in 1741, in a published letter by William Shenstone. The quotation is: "I loved him for nothing so much as his flocci-nauci-nihili-pili-fication of money." Other notable users of the word have included Robert Southey (in the Quarterly Review 14:334, 1816), and Walter Scott (Journal 18, 1829). Scott, however, replaced the "nauci" component with "pauci".[1]

The feminine noun construction, floccinaucinihilipilificatrix, can be found in the Robert A. Heinlein novel The Number of the Beast.

On July 20, 1999, during the (ultimately failed) ratification process of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in the U.S. Senate, North Carolina Senator and Foreign Relations Committee chairman Jesse Helms, an ardent opponent of the treaty, in response to 45 Democrats asking him to allow hearings on the treaty, left little doubt that he was enjoying his role as a spoiler when he wrote "I note your distress at my floccinaucinihilipilification of the CTBT [but] I do not share your enthusiasm for this treaty for a variety of reasons."

It has also been said by Matthew Bellamy in an interview.

References

  1. ^ a b c d Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., s.v. "Floccinaucinihilipilification". [1] (subscription required)

External links



Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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Contents

English

Etymology

A jocular coinage, apparently by students at Eton, combining a number of roughly synonymous Latin stems. Latin flocci, from floccus, a wisp or piece of wool + nauci, from naucum, a trifle + nihili, from nihilum, nothing + pili, from pilus, a hair, something insignificant (all therefore having the sense of "worthless" or "nothing") + -fication. "Flocci non facio" was a Latin expression of worthlessness, literally "I do not make a straw of...".

Pronunciation

  • IPA: /ˌflɒksɪˌnɒsɪˌnɪhɪlɪˌpɪlɪfɪˈkeɪʃən/, /ˌflɒksɪˌnɔːsɪˌnaɪɪlɪˌpɪlɪfɪˈkeɪʃən/, SAMPA: /%flQksI%nQsI&nIhIlI%pIlIfI"keIS@n/, /%flQksI%nO:sI%naIIlI%pIlIfI"keIS@n/
  •  Audio 1 (US)help, file
  •  Audio 2 (US)help, file
  •  Audio (UK)help, file
    Rhymes: -eɪʃǝn

Noun

Singular
floccinaucinihilipilification

Plural
uncountable

floccinaucinihilipilification (uncountable)

  1. The act or habit of describing or regarding something as 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.

Usage notes

Often cited as the longest non-technical word in the English language, being one letter longer than the commonly-cited antidisestablishmentarianism.

Related terms

Translations








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