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floccinaucinihilipilification

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English

Etymology

Latin floccus (a wisp) +‎ naucum (a trifle) +‎ nihilum (nothing) +‎ pilus (a hair) + -fication

A jocular coinage, apparently by pupils at Eton College, combining a number of roughly synonymous Latin stems. The word was inspired by a line in the Eton Latin Grammar that gave a rule for certain verbs that take an object in the genitive case: “flocci, nauci, nihilī, pilī, assis, huius, teruncii, hīs verbīs, aestimō, pendō, faciō, pecūliāriter adduntur”.[1] This translates loosely to: “The verbs aestimo, pendo and facio when used in the sense of ‘to value’ or ‘to care’ irregularly take the following objects in the genitive case: flocci, nauci, nihilī, pilī, assis (penny), huius (this) and teruncii (farthing)”.

Pronunciation

  • IPA(key): /ˌflɒksɪˌnɔːsɪˌnaɪhɪlɪˌpɪlɪfɪˈkeɪʃən/, /ˌflɒksɪˌnɒsɪˌnɪhɪlɪˌpɪlɪfɪˈkeɪʃən/
  • (file)
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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[3]:
      Floccinaucinihilipilification in accounting - does it matter?
    • 2006, Sol Steinmetz, The life of language[4]:
      They must be taken with an air of contempt, a floccinaucinihilipilification of all that can gratify the outward man.
    • 2009, Judith Orloff, Emotional Freedom[5]:
      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[6]:
      The quasi statistician would doubtlessly not know how to check this supposition, thus rendering the interpretation of the mean profit as floccinaucinihilipilification.
    • 2012, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Hansard[7]:
      Let me indulge in the floccinaucinihilipilification of EU judges and quote from the book of Amos about them.

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 and it was later reported as being the second longest word ever recorded by Hansard [2] after Michael Bryan's use of pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis in a select committee enquiry [3].

Related terms

Translations

See also

References

  1. ^ The Spectator, 1 June 2011
  2. ^ Jacob Rees-Mogg (21 February 2012), “HC Deb, 21 February 2012, c787”, in TheyWorkForYou[1]:

    It does not apply to judges in the EU, so let me be rude about them. Let me indulge in the floccinaucinihilipilification of EU judges and quote from the book of Amos about them: []

  3. ^ “'Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis!' Schoolboy tops Rees-Mogg's longest word”, in Express[2], July 30, 2017

Further reading