10th May 2022
Does looking at long words make you tremble? Or does the thought of mispronouncing one give you a headache? If so, you could be suffering from the rather cruelly named hippopottomonstrosesquipedaliophobia. That’s right. The word that means “fear of long words” contains 35 letters!
Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia: The Fear of Long Words
How did we end up with such a lengthy word when it would actually be quicker to say (or write) “fear of long words”? Let’s break down this jumbo word into its components:
● Hippopoto and monstro are nothing but prefixes that suggest something huge (like a hippopotamus) and scary (i.e., monstrous).
● Sesquipedalio comes from the Latin sesquipedalis, which literally means “a foot and a half long” and indicates something “having many syllables.”
● A phobia is an irrational fear.
In fact, the word wouldn’t lose any meaning if hippopoto and monstro were removed. Sesquipedalophobia has the same dictionary definition but is easier to say (and slightly less intimidating for sufferers).
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What are the Symptoms of Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia?
Although the American Psychological Association doesn’t officially recognize the condition, hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia is similar to more common social phobias like glossophobia (fear of speaking in public) and agoraphobia (fear of crowds and public spaces).
Sufferers might experience any of the following symptoms when they’re expected to read or write complicated words: sweating, shaking, increased heart rate, shallow breathing, blushing, and nausea.
People with hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia do everything they can to avoid long words, even though they know their anxiety levels are disproportionate. In the most extreme cases, this causes them to miss opportunities to progress in their careers or academic studies.
Plain and Concise Language is Best
Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia is, thankfully, rare, so it’s unlikely that you or any of your readers will suffer from it. Still, it’s never a good idea to use longer words than you need. After all, you don’t want people’s enjoyment of your writing to be disrupted while they reach for a dictionary!
As proofreaders, we love words of all sizes. If you’d like someone to check your writing for grammar and spelling mistakes and any unnecessarily long words, we’re here to help. Try us out today by sending us 500 words, of any length, to proofread for free.
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