Like all writers words cast a spell upon me, a fascination. But, I swear, I didn’t go looking for hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia. It found me. But it started me thinking. This is the result.

For the writer words are his wattle and daub, (‘he’ because we women can be magnanimous and I’d rather be a he than they), they’re his bricks and mortar, his steel and cement. His raw materials. And like all raw materials they can be divided into classes.

  • Verbs and nouns: the stones, the wood, the bricks, aforesaid.
  • Conjunctions, prepositions and other small bits: the nuts and bolts, the nails and mortar.
  • Adjectives and adverbs: the softening curves and the decorative, non-functional pieces. That which turns Bauhaus into Baroque.

All of which is my rococo way of introducing

Yes, you’ve guessed the meaning. That suffixed phobia gave it away. The fear of long words.

I imagine this and others of its rarefied class (that sprout from the highest rooftops there to hinder the felon in his flight from Superman or Starksy and Hutch) to be the constructs of Victorian Viennese scholars. Though beside this 35-lettered word, the others of its class appear almost simple – like the brown-sheathed heads of narcissi soon to poke through the snow.

  • Onomatophobia: the fear of hearing a certain word.
  • Logophobia: that terrible hindrance for any writer, the fear of words.
  • Logomaniac and logophile: two lovers of words.
  • Lethologica: descending to more familiar ground here – the inability to remember the right word.
  • Logogogue: an expert on words – back to those Viennese scholars.
  • Logomachy: an argument about words – familiar to any dedicated Scrabble player.

And the one with which most writers would like to be accredited . . .

  • Neologism: a new word, new expression or usage.

The next group of words are more concerned with how they spill from our mouths and our pens (or our fingers as they dance maniacally across our keyboards).

  • Logorrhoea: uncontrollable or incoherent talkativeness – yes, I have been accused.
  • Verbigerate: to repeat certain words or phrases unconsciously.
  • Catachresis: the improper use of a word.

Also considered ‘improper’ . . .

  • Weasel word: one that makes a misleading or ambiguous statement.
  • Solecism: an incorrect or unacceptable word.
  • Malapropism: the ludicrous misuse of words.
  • Spoonerism: the transposition of sounds in two or more words. Beloved of schoolchildren, my favourite was: “You can’t eat chish and fips in a par cark in a cower put.”
  • Palindrome: a word or phrase that reads the same backward or forward. Madam I’m Adam.
  • Cacoepy: mispronounced words – a term that’s related to cacophony.

And back to verbosity . . .

  • Pleonasm: the use of more words than is necessary to express an idea.
  • Periphrasis: excessively wordy indirect language – in need of an editor: a word weeder.

Then come the brothers . . .

  • Homophone: a word having the same sound [write and wright] but not the same meaning, origin or spelling as another word [and rite and right].
  • Homograph: a word having the same spelling but not the same meaning, origin or pronunciation as another [to lead, and lead, the heavy metal]
  • Homonym: a word having the same sound and spelling [fell as in fall] but not the same meaning or origin as another word [fell as in foul]

Which is a neat introduction to the nym family. And yes, I’m aware, I am mixing the similies.

  • Heteronym: a word spelled like another but different in sound and meaning – you might think of him as homograph’s twin brother.
  • Paronym: a word derived from the same root as another [alluvial, laundress, lavender, lotion, all from Latin, lauare, to wash].
  • Metonym: a word substituted for a closely associated other [underpass for subway].
  • Hyponym: a word more specific than another [the Atlantic for an ocean].
  • Antonym: a word having the opposite meaning to another [life, death].
  • Synonym: a word having the same or a similar meaning to another [life, vigour; death, expiration].

And then synonym’s sister . . .

  • Analogue: something that corresponds to something else.

Which returns us neatly to –logue words, from logo, Gk. speech . . .

  • Prologue: a preface.
  • Apologue: a fable.
  • Decalogue: the Ten Commandments.
  • Dialogue: a discourse or conversation.
  • Monologue: a soliloquy, properly ‘one that loves to hear himself talk’.

And to conclude, of course, it has to be


The above words were trawled from Flip Dictionary, (a C21st Roget’s Thesaurus), Barbara Ann Kipfer,  ISBN-10: 0-89879-976-7
And no, I didn’t get it for Christmas!
Concise Dictionary of English Etymology, Walter W Skeat (1835-1912), this edition, Wordsworth Reference, ISBN: 978-1-84022-311-8

And to give one final example . . .

  • Perquest: to search dictionaries for great words.

About crispina kemp

Spinner of Asaric and Mythic tales
This entry was posted in On Writing, Thoughts and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia

  1. xelaardan says:

    Wow! What a fantabulous compilation! And to think, just last night I was explaining Spoonerisms to my family — slips of the tongue that provide evidence towards syllabification in words 😉


  2. africanyouthness says:

    How do you even pronounce that! lol


  3. Pingback: What’s the first word you see? | Journey of a Creative Playful Explorer

  4. Brian Bixby says:

    I knew only the humble “sesquepedalian.”


  5. Pingback: Analyze this | Journey of a Creative Playful Explorer

  6. Reblogged this on crispina kemp and commented:

    After remarking that I love words, I remembered this post from back in January 2013. So here’s giving it another airing


  7. Masterfully presented! When I saw that word and tried to decipher it, I came up with “a fear of hippopotamus-sized electronic equipment.” 🙂
    But who knows, maybe someone will come up with a word for that yet? Or “a fear of the latest complicated hand-held electronic device”? I have that one. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Dale says:

    Ahhh… I see why I could not open it by clicking on the title but then when I clicked on the “read more” in the email it brought me here.

    I am dizzy from reading this fabulous (someone stole my fantabulous) post!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Violet Lentz says:

    I am indeed a logophile. Doesn’t have the positive ring to it I’d like it too, but it’s the truth none the less….

    Liked by 1 person

  10. So many words about words! I. Am. Agogologue.

    Liked by 1 person

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