What is the most useless word in English?

a word with 45 letters

Craig McClarren
1 min readJul 2, 2021

The most useless word in the English language is the longest one and is from my own study area: pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.

We English speakers like smaller words and we’re ok with putting several together to describe something if we have to. We generally leave the 20-syllable compound words to the Germans who really dig that sort of thing.

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is damage to the lungs caused by inhaling volcanic ash. When silicosis happens to anyone else, like a coal miner, it’s just called silicosis. But this is caused by volcanic ash. Silicovolcanoconiosis I guess. Seems unnecessarily lengthy, but they wanted to specify that it’s caused by ultra microscopic ash and that it is affecting the lungs so… pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.

In normal English parlance, we would just say volcanic ash induced silicosis. You don’t need more than that.

When a tree falls on someone, we don’t describe them as having suffered cranioultramegatimberconcussiarbolosis. We just say “dude got hit in the head by a tree.”

Making up a new word with 45 letters is silly when there’s another way to say it already. Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis needs to be deleted.



Craig McClarren

Geologist, a lover of all science, father of a young child, published writer on Forbes and Mental Floss