PRONUNCIATION: (NOO-muh-noh-UL-truh-MY-kruh-SKOP-ik-SIL-i-koh-vol-KAY-no-KOH-nee-O-sis, nyoo-)

MEANING: noun: A lung disease caused by silica dust.

ETYMOLOGY: From New Latin, from Greek pneumono- (lung) + Latin ultra- (beyond, extremely) + Greek micro- (small) + -scopic (looking) + Latin silico (like sand) + volcano + Greek konis (dust) + -osis (condition). Earliest documented use: 1935.

NOTES: Even though we have included the pronunciation of this word, we advise caution lest you may have to avail the services of an otorhinolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist).

At 45 letters, it’s the longest word in any English language dictionary. It’s a trophy word -- its only job is to serve as the longest word. In day-to-day use, its nine-letter synonym “silicosis” works just as well. Whatever you call it, it is deadly. Here’s the story of an incident.

And what’s the shortest word in the English language? There are a number of them: A, I, O, but we’ll have to give it to I which is the skinniest as well. Try defining either of them in fewer letters than the spelling of the word.

PNEURONOULTRAMICROSCOPICSILICOVOLCANOCONIOSIS - a complicated degenerative disease of nerve cells (the P is silent, like the P in swimming)

PUN-EU-MONO-ULTRAM/IC-ROSCO-PICS-LILICO-VOLCANOCONIOSIS - play on words about truly-single-generic-arthritis-pills-showing-pictures-of-guns-owned-by-paper-cup-manufacturer-on-mountainous-volcanoes