Latin sesquipedalis(literally a foot and a half long), from sesqui-, from Latin sesqui(one and a half); + pedal, from Latin pedis, form of pes(foot), + adjective suffix -alis; + adjective suffix -ian. Cognate to French sesquipédal. First used by the Latin poet Horace in his Ars Poeta, line 97 "sesquipedalia verba", "words a foot and a half long", referring to poets using excessively long words.


  • IPA(key): /ˌsɛskwɪpɪˈdeɪlɪən/
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  • Hyphenation: ses‧qui‧pe‧da‧li‧an


sesquipedalian ‎(plural sesquipedalians)

  1. A long word.
    • 1830, On the Art of Rising in Prose The New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, part 2, v. 29, Henry Colburn and Co., page: 162:
      “The fine old fellow,” as a Northern contemporary of ours patronizingly calls him, certainly rolled out his sesquipedalians with a majesty previously unknown, and gave a fine organ-like swell to his full-blow periods;
    • 1927, John S. Farmer, William Ernest Henley, A Dictionary of Slang and Colloquial English: Abridged from the Seven-volume Work, Entitled "Slang and Its Analogues", Taylor & Francis, page: 164:
      Fleet-streetese, the so-called English written to sell by the Fleet-streeter (q.v.), or baser sort of journalist: a mixture of sesquipedalians and slang, of phrases worn threadbare and phrases sprung from the kennel;
    • 1952, Hannah More, Syndics of the Cambridge University Press, page: 220:
      ‘Sometimes we converse in ballad-rhymes, sometimes in Johnsonian sesquipedalians; at tea we condescend to riddles and charades.’
  2. A person who uses long words.
    • 2008, Richard Dawkins, The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing,Oxford University Press, page: 106:
      Word-watchers, verbivores, and sesquipedalians love a challenge.
    • 2009, Sally Adams, Wynford Hicks, Interviewing for Journalists, Taylor & Francis, page: 97:
      ‘What sort of writer is the English professor looking for?’ / ‘He wants a sesquipedalian, of course.’
    • 2012, Jonathan Herring, How to Argue: Powerfully, Persuasively, Positively, FT Press, chapter 8, page: ?:
      Don’t be a sesquipedalian! / Yes, you guessed right. A sesquipedalian is a person who enjoys long words.


sesquipedalian ‎(comparative more sesquipedalian, superlative most sesquipedalian)

  1. (of a word or words) long; polysyllabic.
    The most common use of "antidisestablishmentarianism" is as an example of a sesquipedalian word.
  2. Pertaining to or given to the use of overly long words.
    Our dinner guest was so sesquipedalian that no one could understand what he said.
    • 2014 October 30, Ben Brantley, “When the head leads the heart: 'The Real Thing,' With Ewan McGregor and Maggie Gyllenhaal, opens on Broadway [print version: When the witty head is far ahead of the heart: Maggie Gyllenhaal and Ewan McGregor star in revival of 'Real Thing', International New York Times, 4 November 2014, p. 9]”, in The New York Times[1]:
      [I]ts main character, Henry (Mr. [Ewan] McGregor), is a successful, intellectual dramatist who seems quite capable of churning out fizzy, challenging works about brilliant but ambivalent revolutionaries, philosophers, etc. [] But this cleverer-than-thou creature gets his comeuppance in "The Real Thing," showing that a very human heart – just like those possessed by the less sesquipedalian – beats beneath his fancy words.



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