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45 of the longest clinical names (and how to pronounce them)

Medicine is full of weird and wonderful terms that most of us have difficulty in pronouncing, let alone understanding. It is strange that this is so, because the roots of medicine as we know it were established by the Greeks. The Greeks subsequently introduced medicine to the Italians who were speaking Latin at the time, and over half of our modern dictionary is thought to be made up of Latin and Greek terms.

So, why do we have such problems with long medical terms? It is usually because they are made up of a series of root words to describe a particular condition, location or happening, and it is the stringing together of all of these that create longer words than we are used to reading. If you break them down into sections (as given in the brackets below) they become far easier to pronounce as your brain can concentrate on one section at a time.

Below is a list (alphabetically) of some the most bizarre and also the longest accepted medical words. Brush up on these and you could improve your Scrabble skills no end! To check your pronunciation try using www.howjsay.com (or other similar web-sites), just enter the word and someone will say it properly for you; and then practice! For your interest, there is a brief explanation included for each word.

Aceruloplasminemia (acer.ulo.plasmin.emia) is a rare autosomal recessive iron associated disorder.

Although the word below is not in a dictionary, it did appear in the American Chemical Society's Chemical Abstracts, so it is considered by some to be the longest real word.


Is this really a word though? The problem is that there is no theoretical limit to the length of possible legitimate chemical terms. A DNA molecule could have a name of over 1,000,000,000 letters if it was written out in full.

Acrocephalosyndactyly (acro.cephalo.synd.actyly) is an inherited disorder that causes abnormalities of the skull, face, hands and feet.

Adrenoleukodystrophy (adreno.leuko.dystrophy) is an x-linked deadly disease associated with fat build up in the brain causing seizures and hyperactivity.

Agammaglobulinemia (agamma.globulin.emia) is an x-linked disease that disturbs the body’s ability to fight infection.

Arachibutyrophobia (arachi.butyro.phobia) someone with time on their hands came up with this word to describe the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth.

Borborygmus is the fancy name that is used to define a rumbling stomach.

Dimethylamidophenyldimethylpyrazolone (dimethyl.amido.phenyl.dimethyl.pyraz.olone) is currently the fourth longest word in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Cystoureteropyelonephritis (cysto.uretero.pyelo.nephritis) is a term that describes the combined inflammation of the urinary tract (bladder, ureters, and kidneys). This long medical term is listed in The Insomniac's Dictionary.

Cheiroarthropathy (chiero.arthro.pathy) is a condition associated with diabetes mellitus in approximately 30% of long-term diabetic patients. Thickening of the skin and poor joint mobility leads to flexion contractures.

Cholescintigraphy (chole.scinti.graphy) is a test performed by nuclear medicine practitioners to scan the gallbladder for obstructions.

Colporrhaphy (col.porr.ha.phy) is a process to repair defects in the vaginal wall.

Connectin (conn.ect.in) doesn't sound like a very long word but the alternative full name for this protein contains 189 819 letters and takes three hours to pronounce. Due to a limitation on space for this blog, the full word is not included here, but if you feel the need and have three free hours to devote to listen to someone pronouncing this word, you can do this on the following website.

Craniocleidodysostosis (cranio.cleido.dysos.tosis) is a congenital hereditary disorder that causes delayed ossification of structures associated with the midline.

Diprosopus (dipro.sopus) is a rare congenital disorder resulting in duplication of facial features or of all the face. It is caused by aberrant activity in the sonic hedgehog gene and protein that, among other things, determine the width of the face.

Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD: esophago.gastro.duo.deno.scopy) is an endoscopic investigation of the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract, that includes the oesophagus, stomach and into the duodenum.

Fartox (far.tox) is one of the trade names for a molecule with the chemical name of pentachloronitrobenzene. It does seem appropriate that Fartox is a pale yellow solid with a slightly musty odour. Since the 1930s Fartox has been used as a soil fungicide.

Flaviviridae (flavi.vi.rid.ae) is a family of viruses that are spread through ticks and mosquitoes such as Yellow Fever.

Formaldehydetetramethylamidofluorimum (for.mal.de.hyde.tetra.methyl.amido.fluori.mum) is in the Oxford English Dictionary and is a super-long word for a chemical substance.

Fusospirochetal gingivitis (fuso.spiro.chetal gingi.vitis) is a bacterial associated degeneration and sloughing off on the oral membranes.

Glucocerebrosidase deficiency (gluco.cerebro.sidase) is an enzyme that breaks down glucocerebroside in the spleen, liver and lymph nodes in patients with type 1 Gaucher disease.

Hepaticocholangiocholecystenterostomies (hepatico.chol.angio.chol.ecy.sten.terostomies) takes place with the surgical creation of a connection between the gall bladder and a hepatic duct and between the intestine and the gall bladder, is the longest word in Gould's Medical Dictionary.

Homoeriodictyol (homo.erio.dictyol) this molecule gets its name from its parent American plant, Herba Santa (Eriodictyon californicum). Seemingly it is used in foods, drinks and medicines to mask bitter flavours such as paracetamol or quinine.

Kwashiorkor (kwa.shi.or.kor) is a form of protein and carbohydrate malnutrition particularly prominent in developing regions of the world.

Melorheostosis (melor.heo.stotis) is a disease that affects both bone and soft tissue growth and development.

Oligoasthenoteratozoospermia (oligo.astheno.terato.zoo.spermia) for the men only; it is the condition where a man has a very low sperm count with virtually no motility and a majority of sperm with poor morphology.

Onychotillomania (Onycho.tillo.mania) is the compulsive picking of fingernails.

Onchocerciasis (oncho.cer.ciasis) is a disease caused by a parasitic worm that starts with severe itching and can result in blindness.

Paraesthesia (para.es.thesia) is the prickly sensation that we usually call pins and needles. It is mostly caused by pressure to peripheral nerves.

Pneumomediastinum (pneu.mo.media.stinum) is the abnormal presence of air in the chest, with the exception of the lungs of course.

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (pneu.mon.oultra.micro.scopic.sili.co.volcano.con.iosis) is an English word that refers to a lung disease that is otherwise known as silicosis. It is the longest word in the English language published in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Proctosigmoidoscopy (procto.sigmoid.oscopy) is an endoscopic investigation of the lower bowel or colon.

Propylthiouracil (PTU: propyl.thio.uracil) is a drug used to stimulate the production of thyroxine from the thyroid gland.

Rhinotillexomania (rhino.till.exo.mania) is the name given to compulsive nose picking when it gets to the stage of being an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Rhinorrhea (rhin.orr.hea) is the fancy name for a runny nose due to the over production of mucus caused by things such as allergies or a cold.

Salpingo-oophorectomy (sal.pingo-oo.phorec.tomy) is for ladies only; it is the surgical removal of an ovary and its associated fallopian tube.

Septorhinoplasty (septo.rhino.plasty) is plastic surgery to fix your nose and the septum that divides your nostrils.

Sesquipedalophobia (ses.qui.ped.alo.phobia) and (hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia (hippo.poto.mon.stro.ses.qui.pedal.io.phobia) are terms for the fear of long words. Surely these are just compounding the situation?

Spondylolisthesis (spon.dylo.lis.thesis) is the name given to the condition where one of the vertebra in your spine slips forward over the bone below. This can cause back pain and referred pain down your legs due to pressure on nerves.

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (super.cali.fragilist.ic.expi.ali.docious) is seemingly a cure for an aching nose! It is a nonsense word and was commonly thought to be one of the longest words in the dictionary. It was only added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 1986.

Tetramethyldiaminobenzhydrylphosphinous acid (tetra.methyl.diamino.benz.hydryl.phosph.inous acid) is the second longest word to appear in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Uricaciduria (uri.ca.cid.uria) is the term for excessive amounts of uric acid in the urine; it may be a sign of gout.

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (uvulo.palato.pharyngo.plasty) is the operation performed to remove the tonsils and remodel the tissue in the region. It is a common procedure for a patient who suffers from obstructive sleep apnea.

Xanthocyanopsy (xan.tho.cyan.opsy) form of colour-blindness in which only blue and yellow can be distinguished.

Xerostomiath (xero.stomi.ath); try impressing your friends with this one when you have been mountain biking for a few hours, it means you have a dry mouth.