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sesquipedal +‎ -ian (adjective- and noun-forming suffix), root from Latin sesquipedalis (literally a foot and a half long), from Latin sēsqui (one and a half times) + Latin pedālis (measuring a foot) (form of pes (foot) + -alis (adjective-forming suffix)). Cognate to French sesquipédal. First used by the Latin poet Horace in his Ars Poetica at line 97 as sesquipedalia verba ("words a foot and a half long"), considering poets’ use of 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.
    • 1988 March 1, “What Dictionary (General or Specialized) Do You Find Useful or Interesting for Students?”, in The English Journal, page 68:
      Happy word hunting! You might bag a sesquipedalian trophy! (Look it up in the dictionary).
  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.



Derived termsEdit

Related termsEdit


Further readingEdit

  • sesquipedalian” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2019.